Kershaw takes perfect game into 8th, Dodgers rout Angels 9-1

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Clayton Kershaw‘s pitches all sizzled from the start, and the Los Angeles Angels swung early, often and usually ineptly. Behind their longtime ace, the Los Angeles Dodgers made one stunning defensive play after another.

While he retired the first 21 Angels in order, even Kershaw allowed himself to admit everything was pointing toward his first perfect game.

“I really felt like it might happen,” Kershaw said with a smile.

Luis Rengifo‘s double leading off the eighth ended the dream, yet it scarcely dampened another spectacular night for the Dodgers’ beloved left-hander.

Kershaw finished his latest gem in a career full of them with eight scoreless innings of one-hit ball in the Dodgers’ 9-1 victory over the Angels on Friday night.

After mowing down the Angels for seven innings, Kershaw (7-2) fell six outs short of his first perfect game and the second in Dodgers franchise history when Rengifo lined a clean hit to left on a well-thrown low slider.

“I really wanted to do it,” Kershaw said. “I think it would have been really fun for everybody involved.”

But Kershaw shrugged it off, retired three more Angels and got the last of several standing ovations from a sellout crowd of 44,648 at the Big A, which contained a huge contingent of blue-clad fans roaring for Kershaw’s every out.

“Honestly, I probably should have given up four or five hits,” Kershaw said. “Defense played unbelievable tonight, and they lined out right to some guys. It was a fun night.”

The 34-year-old Kershaw was selected to his ninth All-Star team earlier this month, and he is a strong sentimental candidate to start the Midsummer Classic at Dodger Stadium.

If anybody still doubted his All-Star worthiness after just 12 starts this season, Kershaw again showed he’s a master craftsman on the mound who can dominate major league hitters. The three-time Cy Young Award winner struck out six and induced 11 swings and misses while throwing just 89 pitches – none faster than 92.5 mph.

“Obviously, he’s still one of the best in the game,” catcher Austin Barnes said. “He puts the ball where he wants it. They were swinging early, which helps him. After the third or four incredible (defensive) play, I thought it was going to happen. But it’s tough. It doesn’t happen very often.”

Kershaw threw the only no-hitter of his career back in 2014 against Colorado. Sandy Koufax threw the only perfect game in Dodgers history on Sept. 9, 1965. There have been just 23 perfect games in major league history.

Justin Turner had three hits, drove in four runs and also made the first of three spectacular defensive plays by the Dodgers’ infield to keep Kershaw’s perfect game intact. Will Smith went 4 for 4 with a walk, while Hanser Alberto had a two-run triple in the fifth inning as the Dodgers rolled toward the All-Star break with 13 wins in 15 games.

Turner, Alberto and Trea Turner all made outstanding plays on grounders in a four-inning span to maintain Kershaw’s perfection.

“That was a vintage Kershaw performance,” Justin Turner said. “There’s a point in the middle of the game where you know what’s going on, and we had a really good feeling about it. That was dominance right there.”

Brandon Marsh homered off Reyes Moronta in the ninth for the Angels, who opened the second half of the annual Freeway Series with their 11th loss in 13 games overall. Mike Trout sat out for a third consecutive game after having upper back spasms Tuesday, and the rest of the Angels couldn’t break through.

“He’s a future Hall of Famer, and he had his best stuff working tonight against a team that hasn’t been swinging the bats very well,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said of Kershaw. “You could tell from the beginning he had a few pitches that were really working for him.”

Patrick Sandoval (3-5) yielded seven hits and two earned runs while failing to get through the fifth inning for the Angels.

TWICE THIS YEAR

Kershaw already flirted with history in his first start of the season, throwing seven perfect innings with 13 strikeouts at Minnesota on April 13. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts pulled Kershaw from that start with the lefty’s reluctant approval.

Kershaw is the only pitcher in the post-1961 expansion era to be perfect through seven innings more than once in a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

WITHOUT TROUT

Trout intends to play Saturday and in the All-Star Game on Tuesday. He said he took this game off “to make sure it has completely gone away.”

“Still felt a little not right,” Trout added. “I feel like treatment went good today, and (I’ll) be in tomorrow. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow, but my intention is to play tomorrow.”

FREEMAN’S HOME

Freddie Freeman played his first game at Angel Stadium since his rookie season. The longtime Atlanta slugger is an Orange County native who grew up 10 minutes from the Big A and attended countless games here as a kid.

Freeman continued his phenomenal stretch at the plate since being left off the NL All-Star team when he drove in the Dodgers’ first run with an RBI single. The slugger reached base for the jaw-dropping 18th time in his last 21 plate appearances with the first-inning hit.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Dodgers: LHP Andrew Heaney is likely to make a rehab start Saturday. He has pitched for LA once since April due to shoulder woes.

Angels: RHP Jimmy Herget will start a rehab assignment after the All-Star break. He’s been out since June 22 with a right shoulder impingement.

UP NEXT

Julio Urias (7-6, 3.01 ERA) attempts to beat the Angels for the first time in his third career attempt. Jose Suarez (1-3, 4.79) faces the Dodgers for the first time in his major league career.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.