Clayton Kershaw reached 2,500 career strikeouts in the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday night, a major milestone that puts him in the company of some of the game’s greatest pitchers.
He did so while in the midst of recapturing prior dominance.
Kershaw carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and ultimately allowed only three baserunners in yet another masterful outing this season, lowering his ERA to 1.50 after six scoreless innings. The ERA is the third-lowest in the majors, the lowest of Kershaw’s career through his first six starts and the lowest by a Dodgers pitcher through six starts since Kevin Brown in 2001, according to research by ESPN Stats & Info.
He finished with eight strikeouts to move his career total at 2,505, passing Christy Mathewson (2,502) for 38th place on baseball’s career list.
Kershaw, 32, remained a highly successful starting pitcher over the past three years but was noticeably trending downward with a slower fastball that was often-times indecipherable from his slider and left him more susceptible to home runs. This year, Kershaw’s fastball is consistently up over 90 mph and both his slider and curveball look sharp, prompting 41 strikeouts and only six walks in 36 innings.
“The No. 1 thing is he’s healthy,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, alluding to the back issues that plagued Kershaw in recent years. “Clayton’s done a great job of trying to get back and working hard, diligently, every single day, the training staff. But I think that’s No. 1. For him to be healthy and not have to guard or protect against his body, his back or whatever, I think it just allows him to have that freedom to execute pitches.”
At 32 years, 168 days old, Kershaw is the third-youngest pitcher to reach the milestone, behind Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan (31 years, 101 days) and Walter Johnson (31 years, 197 days), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Kershaw is the second pitcher in Dodgers history to reach the mark, joining Don Sutton, and the 11th southpaw all time to get there. He’s the only left-hander to reach 2,500 strikeouts with a sub-3.00 ERA — he entered the game with a 2.43 career ERA.
The 2,500th strikeout came on a curve ball to Nick Ahmed in the third inning, marking the 631st strikeout of his career on that pitch.
“It’s obviously a huge honor and thankful that I’ve been able to be here long enough to do it,” Kershaw said, his team boasting a major league-best 29-10 record. “Hopefully I can keep going.”
When Kershaw took the mound for the sixth inning, it marked the eighth time he had gone that deep into a game without allowing a hit but the first time it happened since 2017 — also the last time he finished within the top five in National League Cy Young Award voting. Kershaw had already thrown 84 pitches by then, making it a near-certainty that he would not complete nine innings regardless of the situation. He gave up a two-out single to Christian Walker, then got David Peralta to ground out on his 99th and final pitch.
His legacy will only continue to grow from there.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Roberts said.