MILWAUKEE -- Someday, Jimmy Nelson might prop a grandchild or two on his knee and tell of the night he outdueled the great Clayton Kershaw.The story won't have a happy ending, though. Nelson went pitch for pitch and then some with the three-time National League Cy Young Award winner, matching
MILWAUKEE -- Someday, Jimmy Nelson might prop a grandchild or two on his knee and tell of the night he outdueled the great Clayton Kershaw.
The story won't have a happy ending, though. Nelson went pitch for pitch and then some with the three-time National League Cy Young Award winner, matching his career high with 11 strikeouts and scattering five hits over eight brilliant innings for a second straight start with double-digit strikeouts and no walks. Yet, the Brewers lost, 2-1, in 12 innings.
"That's why we play it, you know? For the challenge," Nelson said. "You want to play against the best. Those are always fun matchups."
Nelson became the first Brewers pitcher since Yovani Gallardo in 2011 to strike out 10 or more batters in consecutive starts, and the first in franchise history to do so without a walk. Only two pitchers have delivered three straight starts of 10 or more strikeouts and no walks, and Kershaw is one of them. He's done it twice, in 2015 and '16. The Rays' Chris Archer is the other.
What makes Nelson's last two starts remarkable is that he issued more walks last season -- 86 -- than anyone in baseball.
"I think we're past that," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's confident in the offspeed early in the count so you don't have hitters sitting 'hard' early in the count or thinking breaking ball late in the count. He's got three pitches available to him and he's using them very well, really at all times in any count."
In his previous start against the D-backs, Nelson struck out 10 and allowed a run on seven hits in seven innings. Including his last two outings, Brewers starters are 4-1 with a 1.40 ERA in the team's last eight games.
As good as Nelson looked against the Dodgers, he said it was one of those days amid a long season on which he did not feel very good at all.
"I actually think sometimes some of your better outings are when you don't feel great, because you can't physically do too much," Nelson said. "Things are kind of free and easy. It's kind of nice, because it makes you realize you don't have to try too hard, or try to do anything extra than what you can."
Nelson faced only real test in the eighth, when Yasiel Puig reached on an infield hit and Brett Eibner lined a single to left field. Chris Taylor pinch-hit for Kershaw -- ending the lefty's outing at 103 pitches -- and hit the ground ball Nelson was seeking, but Brewers second baseman Jonathan Villar bobbled it and could only record one out.
With runners at the corners for John Forsythe, Nelson induced a nearly similar grounder and this time Villar converted, feeding shortstop Orlando Arcia for an inning-ending double play to end Nelson's night with a 1-0 lead intact.
"Jimmy did his job. He pitched brilliantly," Counsell said. "It was a classic pitcher's duel. Both pitchers were outstanding. Jimmy did everything he could."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.