Clayton Kershaw’s main goal on Wednesday wasn’t to pitch a perfect game, although he very well could have done that if Dodgers manager Dave Roberts hadn’t pulled him out after the seventh inning of a game-changing win. 7-0 against the Twins.
No, the southpaw’s immaculate stat line with 13 strikeouts was just a byproduct of trying to get his teammates back to their own beds and sunny California weather as soon as possible since Tuesday’s game ended after midnight due to delayed rain.
“Go fast,” Kershaw said of his philosophy in the game. “It was cold. I think after the game last night, how late it was and how fast it was, I knew everyone was busy except me. I had a good night’s sleep, so I was good to go.”
Kershaw sent the Twins batters one-two-three until he hit 80 pitches on his season debut. With the lockout shortening spring camp, Kershaw was only built to around 75 pitches and six innings. Roberts consulted him after the sixth, and Kershaw announced he wanted to throw one more before stopping around 80-85 pitches.
The 34-year-old – whose 2021 season ended before the playoffs due to arm pain – said it was a tough decision, especially considering receiver Austin Barnes. Boos rained down from the announced crowd of 17,101 fans, many wearing Dodgers blue, at Target Field when Alex Vesia checked in for the eighth inning.
It could have become the 24th perfect game in MLB history, the first since Felix Hernandez did it for Seattle on Aug. 15, 2012. Three-time Cy Young Award winner Kershaw threw a no-hitter against Colorado in 2014.
Vesia allowed a single to Gary Sanchez in the eighth for the Twins’ lone hit; there has never been a combined perfect game in the majors.
“There comes a time when I have to decide, ‘To what end?'” Roberts said. “I’m as big of a fan as anyone, and I’m a fan of Clayton and seeing a battery of him and Austin throwing a perfect game or a no-hitter, I totally agree. But still once, at what price?
“…There are a lot of people cheering on the Dodgers, not just for [this game] and Clayton to throw a no-hitter, but for the Dodgers to win the World Series. For us to be able to do that, we need him to be healthy.”
Roberts said the decision was actually quite easy, given the team’s and Kershaw’s long-term goals. The move didn’t seem to come as a shock to the Twins either, including manager Rocco Baldelli. Baldelli praised Kershaw’s slider, which did most of his damage considering he wasn’t throwing much harder than around 90 mph.
“It’s not about the speed. He’s got a pretty good deception about what he’s doing. His delivery is unique. If you haven’t seen him much I bet it’s hard to find the point out of where it comes out,” Baldelli said. . “…It appeared that this slider was just a throw that, I don’t know if it was hard to pick up and turn or whatever, but it looked like the swings seemed to be attacking fastballs, and they weren’t fastballs. They were sliders.”
Flawed as it was, LA still won the two-game sweep, putting the Twins up 2-4 in their season-opening home. And the Dodgers dominated offensively, hitting four homers against the Twins’ relievers.
“There are a lot of people cheering on the Dodgers, not just to [this game] and Clayton to throw a no-hitter, but for the Dodgers to win the World Series. In order for us to do this, we need it to be healthy.
Chris Paddack, who came in a trade from the Padres the day before the season opener, made his debut for the Twins and went four innings, allowing six hits and three earned runs while striking out three.
Dereck Rodriguez, called up from Class AAA St. Paul ahead of Wednesday’s game, pitched four innings and didn’t allow a hit until the eighth, when he allowed back-to-back home runs from the bottom of the Dodgers’ lineup . Griffin Jax, another recent caller, threw the ninth and gave up a solo homer to Max Muncy.
Defensively, the Twins were also a bit sloppy, with first inning errors from third baseman Gio Urshela and Paddack when the Dodgers scored twice.
Luckily for the Twins, their performance isn’t what people will take away from this game.
“We’ve got a couple guys who hit really well,” Urshela said of Kershaw. “And they were unlucky.”