AND now for a small appreciation for the continuing wonder that is Clayton Kershaw. Or maybe not so small. Where he stands, exactly, remains to be seen, but it's safe to recognize he needs to be up in the pantheon of special Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers.
Kershaw has now thrown 36 consecutive scoreless innings, trailing only Orel Hershiser (59) and Don Drysdale (58), tops for both the team and the majors.
Kershaw is putting together something truly exceptional. He is a once-in-a-generation player, that wondrous match of supreme talent and determined work ethic.
He has been special for a while now, of course, as two National League Cy Young Awards in three years testify. Manager Don Mattingly has also seemed to shrug at Kershaw's last two scoreless outings as if this is the kind of greatness that has almost come to be expected from Kershaw.
"We've been seeing this for awhile now," Mattingly said after Kershaw blanked the Cardinals for seven innings Sunday. "Every year it seems similar. There have been numerous games where he went out and did this. It's hard to feel it's so much different than the others, because it's not really. It seems the same. I want to appreciate how good he is, but it seems very similar to the past few years."
Certainly Kershaw has had incredible stretches -- nay, seasons -- before, but that doesn't mean Kershaw might not be taking his talent to an even higher level.
His catcher and close friend, A.J. Ellis, thinks Kershaw might have his curveball and slider both working at their highest level in tandem for the best stretch of his career. Kershaw is 10-2 with a 1.85 earned-run average (which would lead the majors with another 1 2/3 innings). In the 56 innings of his last five starts, he has walked five and struck out 51.
This is a special time for a special pitcher who is only 26.
It's why outfielder Andre Ethier earlier this week tried to imagine being retired one day and looking back on these days.
"I'll probably say, 'I can't believe I got a chance to play with that guy and be his teammate. To see that calibre a person,' " Ethier said.
"I appreciate it, but when you're playing you're concerned with everything you're doing yourself and other things going on. You don't really have a chance to take advantage of the joy of being on the same team and being able to watch him."
-- Los Angeles Times