Clayton Kershaw's new-look sidearm cheese was too much for Javier Baez
Clayton Kershaw was already the best pitcher in baseball. With three NL Cy Young Awards to his name, Kershaw has arguably the best slider and curveball and batters have hit just .238 against his mid-90s fastball over the last two seasons. If anyone didn't need a new weapon, it was him.
Like in a horror movie where the scientist looks up from his computer and says, "My god. The dinosaurs grafted with the laser cannons," Kershaw has added a new wrinkle: A quasi-sidearm fastball.
Though he started using it after returning from injury in September, he brought it to the national fore in the Dodgers' 1-0 victory over the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS. Facing the postseason legend Javier Baez , Kershaw unleashed a 96-mph fastball from a new angle. Baez could do nothing but flail at it as it rose high out of the zone.
Just compare his usual release point with the new one:
While Kershaw beat Baez in this at-bat, the second baseman broke up the lefty's perfect game with a single in the bottom of the fifth.
Although the quasi-sidearm is a new wrinkle for him in the Majors, it is actually just his old mechanics. He told MLB.com's Ken Gurnick:
"That's the way I always threw until Skip Johnson changed my delivery before my senior season," Kershaw said of the current University of Oklahoma pitching coach, who was then just a junior college coach that came to Kershaw's aid. "Skip changed me from low-three-quarters delivery to over the top. That helped me keep my weight back. That was actually the first real pitching lesson I ever had."
Of course, Kershaw was incredibly dominant no matter what arm angle he threw from on Sunday. The lefty pitched seven sparkling innings, surrendering only two hits and one walk, while striking out six. And to think -- all this from a pitcher who had to close out the Dodgers' NLDS against the Nationals only three days ago.
Naturally, Kershaw's final out was a familiar face. After Dave Roberts came out for a mound meeting with two outs in the seventh, Baez stepped to the plate. One deep fly out and some relieved sighs later, and Kershaw's day was done.
Tune in to FS1 at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday to see if the Dodgers can keep their winning ways going at Dodger Stadium.