Kerfection: Dodgers no-no next-best thing to perfect

Left-hander channels Koufax in near-perfect 15-K gem vs. Rockies

June 19th, 2014

LOS ANGELES -- If you never saw Sandy Koufax in his prime, the next best thing was Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday night, when he overwhelmed the Rockies with the first no-hitter of his career in an 8-0 victory at Dodger Stadium.
Less than a month after Josh Beckett threw a no-hitter in Philadelphia, Kershaw made it 12 in Los Angeles Dodgers history (four by Koufax) and the 22nd in franchise history.
"Beckett told me he was going to teach me how to do that, so I've got Josh to thank," said Kershaw.
Kershaw could joke afterward, but he admitted feeling nerves going into the ninth inning with a chance at making history. So did his catcher and one of his best friends, A.J. Ellis.
"I started tearing up in the ninth. I just got emotional out there," said Ellis, who said he kept his mask on during the celebration since stepping on Drew Butera's mask during the mob after Beckett's no-no landed him on the disabled list. "I told him it's not fair to have a devastating slider and a devastating curve the same night. But when he does, this is possible. The guys in that lineup give him fits. The way he made them look is a testament to how good he was. I'm just thankful and blessed to be on the receiving end of the best pitcher in baseball."
And if you want a glimpse at what Kershaw is all about, listen to the way his teammates, and opponents, talk about him.
"The thing about it, all the guys sit and watch, and you listen to them and they'll say that nobody deserves this more than him," said manager Don Mattingly. "He works hard every day. He does everything right. He's a great teammate. The two Cy Youngs don't even get in the way. It's just so nice to watch someone like that get it."
The only other season the Dodgers had two no-hitters thrown was 1956, when Carl Erskine and Sal Maglie turned the trick for the Brooklyn Dodgers. That club, which also included Koufax, went to the World Series.
The last Dodgers home no-hitter was by Ramon Martinez in 1995, and the last time the Rockies were no-hit was also by a Dodger, Hideo Nomo, in 1996.
All that kept Kershaw from a perfect game was an error by shortstop Hanley Ramirez in the seventh inning. The last no-hitter in the Majors in which the only runner reached on an error was thrown by Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez against the Padres in 2009. That error was committed by Juan Uribe.
Kershaw was about as dominating as a no-hit pitcher could be. He struck out a career-high 15 without a walk. Of 107 pitches, 79 were strikes. Eight of the strikeouts were finished with a slider, six with a curve, only one with a fastball. Twelve were on swings and misses, three were called.
It was the second no-hitter for plate umpire and 15-year veteran Greg Gibson, who had the dish when Randy Johnson threw a perfect game against Atlanta in 2004.
"When Randy got to the fourth inning, he was so locked in that everybody just stopped talking around the plate, and it was kind of that way tonight," said Gibson. "Nobody was saying anything. Kershaw was that locked in."
Kershaw allowed only three fly balls to leave the infield. He's 7-2 with a 2.52 ERA and two complete games in 10 starts. The two-time National League Cy Young Award winner had twice thrown two-hitters, the last one in 2011.
"As far as individual games, this is pretty special," said Kershaw. "I'll remember this for the rest of my life. Get to do it at home, it's even better. It's amazing."
Rockies leadoff hitter Corey Dickerson said he knew it was going to be a long night after his game-opening strikeout.
"I thought it was high, up in the zone," Dickerson said of the called third strike. "Some of his pitches, I thought, were elevated. But when I went back and looked at them on film, they weren't that high. I don't know. I can't really explain how he did that tonight, but it was pretty impressive."
Kershaw's bid for a perfect game was dashed when Ramirez committed a two-base throwing error on Dickerson's chopper leading off the seventh inning.
Kershaw gave Ramirez a shrug of the shoulders after the play, he said, as if to convey "nothing you can do about it, good try. It was a really tough play. Under normal circumstances, it's pretty close to a hit."
Miguel Rojas, who earlier had a three-run double, saved the no-hitter and shutout by robbing Troy Tulowitzki behind the third-base bag one out after Ramirez's error.
"A great play by Miggy," said Kershaw. "I thought it was foul. It was definitely huge for me."
Mattingly said he considered sending in Carlos Triunfel as a defensive replacement for Ramirez in the seventh inning, but decided the eight-run lead wasn't enough. He made the switch in the eighth.
"Anything can still happen," Mattingly said, because three innings remained. "I thought he made a nice play. I thought Hanley looked good tonight. It looked like that throw wasn't that far off."
Kershaw appeared unhittable from the start. His fastball was a lively 94 mph, the overhand curve breaking off the table, the slider darting temptingly into the feet of right-handed hitters.
He admitted he was "more nervous than usual" going into the ninth inning. DJ LeMahieu bounced out on the first pitch and Ryan Wheeler flied out on the first pitch. Down to the last out, Dickerson swung at all four pitches. He missed the first, fouled off a pair (one at 95 mph), then swung through a slider and bedlam broke out on the field.
After an infield scrum, Kershaw was showered, then met on the field by wife Ellen. The celebration continued in the clubhouse as if a postseason game had just been won.
"I haven't thought about the ramifications of this thing, but I don't take for granted the history of this," Kershaw said.
"When there's a special moment for someone, you want to watch how a guy responds," said Tulowitzki. "Clayton, I've always had a lot of respect for how hard he works. It's nice for me to see how much it means for him. If something can bring tears to someone's eyes, it means you really care, and he cares a lot about this game."
At what point did Kershaw get a sense that this could be a magical evening?
"We just started scoring so many runs," said Kershaw. "I just didn't want to mess that up. I just kept trying to throw strikes. It was just so much fun, I can't explain it. You don't really think about doing something like that. You think about winning a World Series, but as far as individually, this ranks right up there. It's pretty cool."
The outcome also meant the Dodgers swept the three-game series and trimmed the first-place Giants' lead to four games. Ten days earlier, the Giants led the Dodgers by 9 1/2 games.
In addition to three RBIs by Rojas, the Dodgers got a pair each from Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez. The Dodgers blew the game open in a five-run third inning.