Maybe you've heard: Last night, 26-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers' pitcher Clayton Kershaw threw his first no-hitter. Twenty-eight batters, 15 strikeouts, and 107 pitches. It was glorious beyond words.
I am a diehard Giants fan, and I loved it.
In early May of last year, I watched the Giants play the Dodgers at home. It was actually my first time ever seeing Kershaw pitch in person, though I'd unabashedly admired him since his rookie season. I had justified my love by pointing to him wearing Will Clark's number, or by saying I just wished he would sign with the Giants instead. But the truth is that even in Dodger Blue, I love watching Kershaw pitch. As anyone who calls themselves a baseball fan should.
On the cold Friday night game I attended, Kershaw did not allow a hit through five innings. His no-hit bid was broken up with three hits and one run in the sixth, and he ended his outing with consecutive strikeouts in the seventh.
The Giants and Dodgers were still tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth when Buster Posey, who Kershaw had intentionally walked in the fourth, stepped up to the plate. He hit a dinger into the bleachers, his first walk-off HR, and sent my Giants home celebrating a win. It's likely I'll never be in the stands for a better regular season game. It wouldn't have been all that difficult to accept a loss from such a dominating pitcher, but the Giants won anyway. In the next few weeks, the 2013 Giants would become a trainwreck; Clayton Kershaw would become Cy Young winner a few months later.
It was Kershaw's first start after the death of his father. This is what makes Kershaw special: his ability to pitch well despite whatever's going on in his head. It was this determination, the fire and the fury attached to every strike, that revealed itself again during his no-hitter this week.
I spent myself whimpering and sweating through the eighth and the ninth innings while the rest of the East Coast slept. I dashed off a bleary email: "Clayton Kershaw is throwing a no-hitter, I'll be in late," or something like that. It was a rival team, but I knew I would weep no matter what happened.
Semantics of the "perfect game" aside, Kershaw himself really was perfect during his outing. It should have been a perfect game. Hanley Ramirez, whose hand had been hit by a ball earlier in the week, overthrew a routine out to first in the seventh, earning an error, and ending Kershaw's bid for a perfect game. Despite the frustration of Hanley, the MLB's leader in errors (141 since 2006), Kershaw maintained composure and did what he does best: throw strikes. He was just plain nasty in the eighth, letting his curveball show no mercy. It was when he struck out the first batter in the ninth that I knew he had it. His composure under pressure was pushed to an incredible test, and he just kept dealing.
The true beauty of baseball, to me, is that anything can happen and if you avert your eyes for one pitch, your team could give up the lead or go ahead or create history. In one pitch, Kershaw's no-hitter could have been taken from him. He knew that, and he ended the game with this 15th strikeout: Corey Dickerson swung.
This baseball season has been wacky and many team records look like typos, but the significance of Kershaw's no-hitter is not that it's anomalous but that it feels so right. This game should be met with a "Yes, good," by all baseball fans. Our alien overlords are looking down from above saying, "Everything's as it should be down there, boss — Kershaw's curve is still as nasty as ever."
Congratulations to Dodgers fans who got to watch their beloved No. 22 pitch the 22nd no-hitter in the history of the franchise. Hugs to baseball fans who are too bitter about how a single Dodgers win might affect their team to cherish the beauty that went down on that mound. And most of all, congrats to Clayton Kershaw, who gives me something to look forward to in the future of baseball.