For those who have gotten distracted by Chris Sale‘s remarkable strikeout streak or the one-two punch of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw is here to reclaim the spotlight. The Dodgers’ ace set down 14 strikeouts against the Brewers on Friday night, the fourth of which marked the 2,000th whiff of his 10-year career.
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That’s spectacular for any pitcher, let alone one who is nine months shy of 30 years old. It’s fast, too — so fast, in fact, that Elias Sports Bureau lists only two major league hurlers who have recorded 2,000 strikeouts faster than Kershaw: Randy Johnson (1,734 innings) and Pedro Martinez (1,715 1/3 innings). By comparison, Kershaw did it in 1,836 innings.
Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts praised Kershaw’s precision and focus en route to the 2,000-strikeout record, while hinting that No. 3,000 might come even faster. Via MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick:
Not only does he care about the big picture, but he stays so micro-focused on today. When it’s all said and done, I’m sure 2,000 will be a lot closer to 3,000. He’s a great pitcher and for me to be a part of his journey is great.
Hitting that 3,000-mark might still be far off, but he’ll need just 214 more strikeouts to tie Sandy Koufax for third-most in franchise history and 696 to eclipse franchise strikeout leader Don Sutton.
If the southpaw hasn’t looked like his usual self lately, that’s partly because the bar is set so high. He’s coming down from a season in which he posted a 1.69 ERA, the lowest of his career, paired with an 0.7 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 149 innings. Through the first two months of the 2017 season, his 1.9 fWAR is the sixth-best among major league starters, while his 2.37 ERA (entering Friday’s game) ranks fourth alongside the White Sox’ Derek Holland.