Clayton Kershaw's 15-K No-Hitter Must Be Remembered Among Best-Ever Performances

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Clayton Kershaw's 15-K No-Hitter Must Be Remembered Among Best-Ever Performances
Chris Carlson/AP Images

One fun fact about Clayton Kershaw: His great-uncle, the late astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, discovered Pluto.

One new fact about Kershaw: On a Wednesday night in Los Angeles, the Colorado Rockies couldn’t have hit him whether they were facing Kershaw in Dodger Stadium, Coors Field or on Pluto itself.

Kershaw’s first career no-hitter was so dominant, so eternal that you can bottle it and put it on the mantel right next to those of Kershaw’s friend and admirer, Sandy Koufax.

He struck out 15 Rockies and only missed a perfect game when shortstop Hanley Ramirez threw away Corey Dickerson’s chopper to start the seventh inning. No surprise there; the Dodgers have had issues on defense all season.

There are no issues on the mound, however. Which is why, no matter how lacking the chemistry appears and how much the outfield math fails to add up, it remains a mistake to underestimate what Don Mattingly’s Dodgers are capable of this season.

Kershaw’s is the second Dodgers no-hitter in little more than three weeks. It was back on May 25 in Philadelphia that we were toasting Josh Beckett, whose late-career renaissance itself has been a remarkable sight.

Now, after Beckett joked with the other pitchers on the staff that maybe they could learn a few things from him yet, turns out Kershaw took the challenge literally. Oh my goodness, did he ever.

Clearly, the Rockies’ approach was to swing early in the count. And just as clearly, they may as well have taken butterfly nets to the plate in search of monarchs. They mustered only three fly balls past the infield all evening.

For the ages? Best-ever performances? Rack this one high atop the charts and don’t look back.

Until Kershaw on Wednesday night, no pitcher in history had ever whiffed 15 in a major league game while surrendering no hits and no walks.

According to Bill James’ "Game Score" tool, which rates dominant pitching performances throughout history, Kershaw’s 8-0 stiff-arming of the Rockies ranks only behind Kerry Wood’s astounding 20-strikeout game against the Astros in 1998.

Wood steamrolled to a score of 105 and tops the Game Score list. Kershaw now checks in at 102, just ahead of Matt Cain’s perfect game against the Astros two summers ago (101) and Koufax’s perfecto against the Cubs in September 1965.

Given that this one was thrown as practically a direct descendant of the Koufax lineage, in Dodger Stadium, by a left-hander already considered one of the greatest of this generation—well, all of that only adds to an already legendary night. Of 107 pitches, 79 were strikes.

“He’s a special guy on the mound and off the mound,” Koufax said during a conversation in Dodgers camp two springs ago. To have the respect, admiration and approval of that particular former left-hander as a Dodger is about as high a compliment as there is.

Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt raves about Kershaw’s preparation, saying it is as thorough as any pitcher he’s ever seen. That was emphasized to Honeycutt two Septembers ago, when the Giants sent a no-name, minor league recall to the plate and the pitching coach jogged to the mound for a quick conversation about strategy.

“As soon as I get there, Clayton is spouting off about what this guy’s weaknesses were, how he was going to attack him and how he was going to finish him off,” Honeycutt told me last September.

Robert Houston/Associated Press

That preparation, with this stuff, is why Kershaw (7-2, 2.52 ERA) has won two Cy Young Awards in the past three seasons.

And it’s what allowed him to pitch one of the best games in baseball history Wednesday—and what allows him to have a chance to produce magic every time out.

Kershaw’s 94 mph heater was his anchor Wednesday, but by the second inning, when he followed three straight fastballs to Wilin Rosario with a filthy 73 mph curveball for a called third strike, it was apparent that his hook was particularly lethal. Once he mixed in his devastating slider, the Rockies would have had a more productive evening had they just gathered around the clubhouse whirlpool for a group singalong of "Rocky Mountain High."

Now, with the slumping Giants losing again to the White Sox, the Dodgers suddenly are only four games back in the NL West with a jet airliner’s worth of momentum. And if these Dodgers are going to persist in tossing no-hitters every three or four weeks, who in the name of Tommy Lasorda is going to put any limits on what they might accomplish?

Are you kidding? Kershaw, Mr. Two-Time Cy Young himself? Zack Greinke, who appears close to his 2009 Cy Young form? Beckett? The consistent Hyun-Jin Ryu?

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

This is not a rotation you want to face in October. Memo to the Giants and everyone else in the NL: Your best bet is to box the Dodgers out of the playoffs completely. Because if you don’t, good luck.

What we know right now is that the only other season the Dodgers enjoyed two no-hitters was in 1956, when Carl Erskine and Sal “The Barber” Maglie each threw one when the club was still in Brooklyn for a team that went on to play in the World Series.

What we don’t know yet is whether the Dodgers will add another one or two to their growing no-no pile this summer. With this rotation, don’t count that possibility out.

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball here. 

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