By: Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
The Los Angeles Dodgers are filled with national treasures.
Like broadcaster Vin Scully, who retires at the end of this season, his 67th.
Like Jaime Jarrín, Spanish language voice of the Dodgers, in his 58th year.
And Clayton Kershaw, a left-handed stud hoss going for his fourth Cy Young award in six seasons. How good is Kershaw?
“He’s the closest thing to Sandy Koufax that they have had,” said Jarrin Saturday afternoon. “He’s not there yet, but he’s close. He is a very hard worker. He is a man without a winter.”
Jarrin began broadcasting Dodger games in 1959 -- the fifth year of Koufax’s 12-year Hall of Fame career. He can compare Carl Crawford to Wally Moon or Kershaw to Koufax because he has seen them all.
And on this day, the lefty, who said he didn’t have his fastball command, worked seven strong innings allowing as the Dodgers beat the Blue Jays 6-2 before 47,156 at the Rogers Centre. For his third straight outing Kersham had 10 strikeouts and zero walks only the third ever to do so. In between walks Kershaw has 34 strikeouts and legend has it: scaled the CN Tower and outlasted new LA executive Alex Anthopoulos in a conversation.
(Just kidding. Both are tall towers to climb).
It took two hours and 28 minutes for the Dodgers to dispatch Jays hitters, but Kershaw’s day started roughly four hours before first pitch when he stood on the mound for the first time.
Kershaw described it as a “weird day” because he had never faced the Jays before, telling reporters “first time here, trying to figure that out, facing a new team. I haven’t faced a lot of those guys. My stuff wasn’t great at times and it was OK at other times.
“Kind of an in-and-out day.”
Three of the first six Jays had hits (Jose Buatista, Justin Smoak and Troy Tulowitzki) and then five of the next 18 as Kershaw benefitted from three double plays.
“I threw a lot of bad sliders, that they probably thought were bad changeups,” Kershaw said.
How competitive is Kershaw?
“I’ve seen him scream at himself during a bullpen session,” said Dodgers broadcaster Rick Monday, who tells of Kershaw making the final out of the eighth in his 2014 no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies ... a ground ball to short.
“He has three outs to go to a no hitter and he’s sprinting to first!” said Monday.
Kershaw is now 80-0 when the Dodgers get him four runs and better than Fernando Valenzuela, according to Jarrín.
“Fernando could not dominate with a curve, fastball and slider like Kershaw,” said the Spanish Voice of the Dodgers like Scully and the late Tom Cheek a Ford C. Frick award winner.
Kevin Pillar went to school at California State University Dominguez Hills some 20 miles from Dodger Stadium as the crow flies, and an hour as snails move on the asphalt. After practice he and friends would drive to the game pay $20 and sit in the blue seats.
When he was young his pop Mike Pillar would take him to games and they’d sit near the bullpen.
“When you’re real young the game can seem slow developing, where we sat we could see pitchers warm up, hear fans ask for players to sign during games -- which you’re not allowed to do,” said Pillar. “If we were in LA I could show you my favorite parking spot, my favorite hot dog vendor. Dodger Dawgs are so good you don’t need ketchup.”
His faves include Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, Eric Karros and Shawn Green. Before Saturday’s game he remembers Odalis Perez being nice to fans and looked forward to facing Kershaw.
“He’s probably the most exciting pitcher the Dodgers have had since Eric Gagne,” Pillar said. “Dodger Stadium crowds are famous for leaving early. No one left when Gagne pitched.”
Gagne dominated for three years starting in 2002 as the Dodgers closer winning the 2003 Cy Young Award and converting 84 consecutive saves.
Pillar, who doubled in a run off Kershaw in the fifth to cut the LA lead to 4-2, was in the seats rooting for the Dodgers in 2008 when Jonathan Broxton came on to face Matt Stairs with the score tied 5-5. Stairs homered (“You could feel the energy come out of the place,” Pillar said) to put the Philadelphia Phillies within a game of the World Series.
Aaron Sanchez was attending high school in Barstow, Calif. when Kershaw made his debut in 2008.
“What amazes me is that he is so dominant with mostly two pitches, a heater and a spinner,” said Sanchez, who grew up a fan of the Anaheim Angels and the likes of David Eckstein, Tim Salmon and Mo Vaughn.
Of course had Kershaw held a lead in 2014 against the St. Louis Cardinals twice in the National League Division Series the front office landscapes might be different.
Up 6-2 in Game 1, the Cards scored eight in the seventh for a 10-9 win and leading 2-0 in the seventh of Game 4, Matt Adams hit a three-run homer.
What if Kershaw holds the leads and the Dodgers advance? Well, probably Ned Colletti would still have been GM of the Dodgers in 2015, probably new LA president Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon would still be with the Tampa Bay Rays and probably Farhan Zaidi would be with the Oakland A’s. Instead, Colletti is doing TV, Maddon manages the Chicago Cubs and the others are in the Dodgers front office.
For now, even on a weird afternoon, Clayton Kershaw was pretty impressive to watch.