Kershaw outduels Scherzer in showdown

April 12th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- It was a weekend full of celebrations at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers received their World Series rings on Friday as Dodger Stadium reopened its doors to fans for the first time in over a year. The late Tommy Lasorda was honored on Saturday with tributes throughout the game, and the 40th anniversary of Fernandomania brought more festivities on Sunday.

Fittingly, the weekend came to an end with the best pitcher in franchise history throwing a gem in his first home start as a World Series champion. outdueled fellow three-time Cy Young Award-winner Max Scherzer, guiding the Dodgers to a 3-0 win over the Nationals on Sunday at Dodger Stadium. The win helped the Dodgers complete their first three-game sweep of the season.

“He’s obviously been really good for a really long time for many reasons. It’s not by accident,” said Nationals shortstop Trea Turner regarding Kershaw. “When you get him out there, you’ve just got to battle. I thought we did pretty well fighting him and trying to put the ball in play, not strike out and do all those things. He just had a good day.”

Kershaw and Scherzer entered Sunday’s matchup with a combined 5,329 strikeouts, 351 wins, six Cy Young Awards, two World Series titles and two punched tickets to Cooperstown whenever they’re ready to hang up their cleats.

Sunday was just the third time the two likely future first-ballot Hall of Famers faced off in the regular season -- and they didn’t disappoint.

“Max has obviously had an unbelievable run with what he’s done over there in Washington. I have a ton of respect for him and everything he’s done in this game,” Kershaw said. “You try not to attack it any differently. You always try to put up zeroes on the board. But after we got that early run there, you try and make it stand as best you can, knowing that Max probably isn’t going to give up many himself. [We're] fortunate today that it worked out.”

After allowing five runs on 10 hits in a shaky Opening Day start against the Rockies, Kershaw appears to be back on track as the Dodgers’ ace, striking out six over six scoreless innings in Sunday’s win. Over his last two starts, Kershaw has allowed just one run, striking out 14 over 13 innings of work.

While Kershaw dominated the Washington lineup, he was particularly sharp against superstar Juan Soto. Kershaw won all three battles against Soto, including the last two with the tying run at second base. In the final showdown, Kershaw struck out Soto looking on a perfectly placed slider. Kershaw threw 86 pitches, 54 for strikes.

“I was able to make enough pitches when I needed to in order to get out of things and get some outs,” Kershaw said. “Overall, they have a lot of guys over there that hit me pretty well, so it was good to get out of this with a win, for sure.”

Dodgers starters are now 6-0 with a 1.61 ERA in their last eight outings. The starter has gone six or more innings in seven of those eight games.

On the other side, Scherzer was showing a talented Dodgers’ lineup how he has racked up all his accolades. Scherzer allowed one run on three hits and struck out five on 90 pitches. But in the second inning, Zach McKinstry -- who has seemingly been the hero in every game this week -- delivered a two-out RBI double to give the Dodgers the early 1-0 lead.

McKinstry, however, wasn’t done. In the seventh inning, he launched a two-run homer just over the right-center-field wall off Nationals reliever Tanner Rainey to give the Dodgers some much-needed insurance. McKinstry now leads the team with 10 RBIs and has a 1.033 OPS.

“He’s a baseball player, man. I think that’s just the best compliment you can give anyone that plays our game,” Kershaw said of McKinstry. “He’s got a great feel for the game, can play multiple positions, has a great arm. He’s like the left-handed [Kiké Hernandez], doing things Kiké used to do. … He’s got some thump, too, man. He can really hit. It’s a great thing for us to have him in that utility role.”

Kenley Jansen also provided another highlight for the Dodgers. The right-hander pitched a perfect ninth inning, needing just eight pitches and striking out two. But perhaps the most surprising part of his outing was the radar gun: Jansen was throwing consistent 94 mph cutters. His average last season was 90.9 mph.

Overall, it was a perfect weekend for the Dodgers. And as a result, they’re off to an 8-2 start to the season.

“We’re playing pretty good baseball,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “For me, it’s just kind of the intent each day to play a clean baseball game and compete for nine innings, and that’s what we do consistently.”