Dodgers ace finishes season with sparkling 2.13 ERA over 33 starts
By Steve Bourbon
LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw can add another feat to his already decorated resume, as he recorded his 300th strikeout of the season in the third inning of the Dodgers' 6-3 win over the Padres on Sunday.
Needing only six punchouts entering the final game of the season, Kershaw led off the game by striking out Melvin Upton Jr. on a high fastball, and he needed to face only 10 batters to achieve the milestone. After he fanned Upton again in the third inning for No. 300, Kershaw simply put his head down and walked back to the dugout to a standing ovation from the Dodger Stadium crowd.
"Yeah the fans knew what was going on," Kershaw said. "It's definitely a cool thing. Not the most important thing in the world, but it's something you can look back when your career is done and see that you did that once."
"I know it meant a lot to him, even though he lied and said it didn't," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "I was counting from the first strikeout of the game. I knew what we needed to get to and where his pitch count was at, just hopeful he would execute so those strikeouts would pile up and get to that number."
Kershaw is the first pitcher to reach the milestone since Curt Schilling and Hall of Famer Randy Johnson in 2002. Kershaw joined Sandy Koufax as the only Dodgers pitcher to reach 300 strikeouts. Koufax accomplished the feat in 1963, 1965 and 1966.
"Any time you're associated with Sandy, it's a tremendous honor as I've said," Kershaw said. "It's something I don't think about a whole bunch, but it's something I don't take lightly."
Kershaw finished with 301 strikeouts -- which led the Majors -- and a 2.13 ERA over 33 starts. He has been a picture of consistency by making 33 starts in four of the past five years and posting a 2.12 ERA in that span.
Kershaw led the National League in strikeouts in 2011 with a previous career-high of 248 strikeouts, and again in '13, but this is the first time he's led the Majors. He's one of the pair of aces that the Dodgers boast going into the postseason.
Zack Greinke earned the win on Saturday night and captured the Major League ERA title at 1.66. Greinke lasted at least six innings in all 32 of his starts, and he allowed one run or less in 21 of those outings. It was the second time Greinke has had the lowest ERA in the Majors, with the first coming in 2009 when he won the American League Cy Young Award with the Royals. The pair's combined 1.90 ERA is the lowest by a set of teammates since 1968, with a minimum of 25 starts.
While there's debate between the two and the Cubs' Jake Arrieta over the National League Cy Young Award, Ellis believes the Dodgers' duo deserve the hardware.
"One gets MVP, one gets Cy Young and they should stay in this room," Ellis said. "I'm impressed with Zack's consistency throughout season without a letdown. Through a shorter window, Clayton has been pure dominance."
Steve Bourbon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.