Clayton Kershaw has always been described as unhittable, but on Wednesday night, the definition was literal.
The two-time Cy Young Award-winner baffled the Colorado Rockies, striking out a career-high 15 and walking zero through nine dazzling no-hit innings in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 8-0 home win.
Clayton Kershaw, legendary.— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 19, 2014
He joined teammate Josh Beckett as the only other player in the league to twirl a no-hitter so far this season, and ESPN Stats & Info noted the historical impact:
Clayton Kershaw throws 284th no-hitter in MLB history (22nd for Dodgers, most all-time)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 19, 2014
The only pitcher with more strikeouts than Kershaw's 15 in a no-hitter in MLB's modern era (1900) is Nolan Ryan.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 19, 2014
Kershaw actually carried a perfect game into the seventh inning, but leadoff hitter Corey Dickerson reached first on a throwing error from shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Still, Kershaw wasn't rattled, as he retired the next nine batters in just as dominant of a fashion as the first 18.
While no-hitters have become a bit more common and watered-down in recent history, this was one of the greatest performances in history. It was as perfect of a non-perfect game you'll ever see.
Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan put it simply:
Clayton Kershaw just pitched one of the greatest games ever. The only higher nine-inning Game Score than his 102 was Kerry Wood's 20-K game.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 19, 2014
Game Score records: Kerry Wood's 20-K game: 105 Clayton Kershaw tonight: 102 Matt Cain's perfect game: 101 Sandy Koufax's perfect game: 101— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 19, 2014
First off, his 15 strikeouts were a career high, as the team's official Twitter feed noted when he struck out No. 14 in the eighth inning:
A career-high 14 strikeouts for Clayton Kershaw. #Dodgers— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 19, 2014
His fastball, knee-buckling curve and changeup were all working on an unfair level.
Second, this wasn't the San Diego Padres (sorry, Padres) he was pitching against. The Rockies entered Wednesday night's game ranked first in the majors in OPS, first in slugging percentage, first in average and second in runs scored, per FanGraphs.
Yes, Carlos Gonzalez was out of the lineup, but this is still a team led by NL MVP-candidate Troy Tulowitzki, who absolutely crushes the ball. And on Wednesday, the Rockies looked like a bunch of lost little leaguers going up against, well, Clayton Kershaw.
Oh, and to make it even better, the legendary Vin Scully was on the call:
I have only been watching since the 6th. But Scully is having almost as flawless a game as Kershaw. Every word, like every pitch, artistic.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) June 19, 2014
Which, of course, was nothing new for him, per CSN Washington's Mark Zuckerman:
You know who's not nervous right now: Vin Scully. He's only called EIGHTEEN no-hitters in his career before tonight.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) June 19, 2014
Sully's final call was short and sweet:
"He's done it." - Vin Scully— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 19, 2014
Of course, as with every gem, there were some "this-is-meant-to-be" defensive plays. One came in the seventh inning, when third baseman Miguel Rojas went down the line to snag a hard-hit ball from Tulo and gunned him out at first.
Fox Sports' Jon Morosi praised the play:
Last replay angle on the Rojas throw was breathtaking. Beautiful play.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) June 19, 2014
Kershaw started the night with a 2.93 ERA, which, amazingly enough, would be the worst number of his career since his 2008 rookie year.
That number is down to 2.52 now, and Kershaw continues to find new ways to impress as he establishes himself as one of the greatest pitchers of this generation.