When Kershaw running the bases went very wrong

Let's hit the archive

May 8th, 2020

Everybody's got one. A moment that's always stuck with you -- a weird play, a wild walk-off, a mascot ejection, anything in between -- but the details are hazy all these years later, and you can't seem to find video evidence anywhere. Did it actually happen? Were you hallucinating? What was the name of that guy at the plate, anyway?

In this new series, we're here to help: Simply send an email to [email protected], subject line "Clip Request," with the bit of baseball weirdness you've always wished you could find, and we'll dive into the MLB archives to see if we can dig it up. Our first installment comes from MLB.com's very own Michael Clair, who thought he remembered something about Clayton Kershaw getting into trouble on the basepaths.

OK, so this is a clip I’ve never actually seen, only read about, and it has tantalized me ever since. Here's what I know: There was once a Dodgers game -- I believe it was early in the 2010s against the D-backs (maybe?) -- in which Clayton Kershaw had somehow reached base. The next batter came to the plate and blasted one to the wall. But because Kershaw spends all his time pitching and not running the bases, he managed to basically run the team out of the inning.

The ball dropped in for a hit, but Kershaw didn’t know that, so he started running backwards and got passed on the basepaths. Basically: our greatest living pitcher becomes a Little League baserunner. Did this happen? Does this exist? Is it as funny as I want to believe it is? SAVE ME, OBI-WAN.

Ask and you shall receive, Mike. Our first order of business: Find out whether something like this actually happened, and if it did, when. Luckily, the details you provided (some time in the early 2010s, against Arizona) helped us narrow it down -- as it turns out, there were nine games from 2010 to 2015 in which Kershaw reached base at least once against the D-backs.

Now that we had our candidates, it was time to pore through some box scores. Soon enough, this guy popped up: July 3, 2010, L.A. against Arizona at Chase Field.

In the words of Christoph Waltz: That's a bingo. Or at least it sure seems like it. To make sure, we reached out to our multimedia team and asked them to try to locate the play in question. They were successful, and I'm pleased to report that the shenanigans were even better than advertised:

OK, so it's hard to mount a defense of a guy who winds up running the bases backwards, step for step with his own teammate. But allow me to try anyway.

Kershaw reached first base on an error in the top of the second inning, loading the bases for Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal against Arizona's Rodrigo Lopez. Furcal eventually drove one toward the wall in dead center -- deep, but possibly playable for Chris Young. As Young went back, he appeared to get himself in position on the warning track, reaching out his glove like he was about to make the play. So Kershaw, who'd already rounded second base by this point, started to turn around and head back, not wanting to get doubled off of first in the event that Young caught the ball.

Except, well, Young didn't catch the ball -- he watched it clang off his glove instead. Furcal, seeing a triple flash before his eyes, got on his horse. Kershaw, having already turned his back to the play -- and, it bears repeating, not really having a lot of practice at this whole base-running thing! -- had no idea what was going on. Which is how we wound up with this:

By the time Furcal's managed to get Kershaw's attention, it's too late -- he'd already passed him on the basepaths, which is, in case you weren't aware, extremely against the rules. The worst part: Furcal, as the one who technically did the passing, gets called out, forced to trudge back to the dugout while Kershaw stays at second base. (You can even see Kershaw mouth "I didn't see" at around the 40-second mark.)

Physical comedy aside, I think I love this clip so much because it's really something that only baseball could produce. Clayton Kershaw is one of the very best in the world at what he does. But what he does could not be further from the other aspects of the sport that he plays, and that specialization -- hitting and fielding and pitching are all discrete skills, requiring remarkable physical gifts and decades of hard work to master -- means that we sometimes get to see elite athletes look like complete fishes out of water. Big leaguers might not be just like us, but Kershaw has probably practiced running the bases in a Major League game about as often as you or I have, and that's an incredibly humbling (and, come on, objectively hilarious) thing to watch.

(The second reason I love this clip so much: listening to Vin Scully sort through all that mayhem without seemingly ever breaking a sweat. You can spend decades watching baseball and not see a play like that, and yet his pace never quickens, his voice never rises, he never stumbles over his words -- he just calmly, coolly walks you through what happened and why, in that way he always did. Vin Scully forever.)

Thanks again to Mike for our first request, and remember to send in the MLB moments you'd like us to track down to [email protected]. We'll see you next week!