Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw got his 2,500th career strikeout, and then reached 38th on the all-time list in a win over Arizona on Thursday. Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

 

LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw doesn’t feel like a potential no-hitter is serious until it lasts through six innings. Before that, it’s just the everyday dominance that Dodgers fans have come to expect over his 13 years in blue.

Although Kershaw’s latest no-hit bid ended one out shy of the serious innings, Los Angeles’ veteran ace put together another historic performance that indicates he’s healthy, sharp – and perhaps just as good as ever.

Kershaw reached two career strikeout milestones and held Arizona hitless into the sixth inning Thursday night, leading the Dodgers past the Diamondbacks 5-1 for their fifth straight victory. While racking up eight strikeouts over six scoreless innings, Kershaw (5-1) became the 39th pitcher in major league history with 2,500 strikeouts when he fanned Nick Ahmed in the second. The left-hander then caught and passed Christy Mathewson (2,502) for 38th place on baseball’s career list by getting Carson Kelly and Tim Locastro in the third.

Kershaw didn’t know exactly what to say about seeing his name next to Mathewson, the New York Giants Hall of Famer whose playing career ended 104 years ago.

“It’s cool, it really is,” he said. “It’s just hard for me think about or wrap my head around. Getting to see your name on different types of leader boards is cool. It’s just hard to grasp, really.”

AJ Pollock had a pinch-hit homer and Mookie Betts added an RBI single in the seventh for the major league-leading Dodgers (29-10), who have won 18 of 21. Corey Seager had three hits for Los Angeles, which has also won 10 straight at Dodger Stadium after sweeping Arizona.

Kershaw, who threw his only previous no-hitter in 2014, allowed three baserunners but no hits until Christian Walker hit a grounder to shortstop with two outs in the sixth. Kiké Hernandez made the stop but had a tough throw, and it forced Cody Bellinger to jump off the bag at first, making Walker safe by inches.

“If I were to get through the sixth there, I think after that it starts becoming maybe a little more real,” Kershaw said. “Up until then, it’s not really real until after the sixth, and after the seventh you’ve got a real chance.”

Kershaw calmly got a grounder from David Peralta on his 99th and final pitch. Manager Dave Roberts said Peralta would have been Kershaw’s final batter even if he still had a no-hitter intact, since the dominant Dodgers can already focus on keeping their arms fresh for October.

During this coronavirus-shortened season, the 32-year-old Kershaw is on a roll that resembles the most dominant stretches of his incredible career. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner has thrown 15 consecutive scoreless innings since Aug. 20, and he has given up just two runs and 10 hits with 29 strikeouts in 26 innings over his last four starts.

Roberts sees a difference in his ace this season from the past two years, when his ERA and WHIP rose to unusual levels – but it isn’t about Kershaw’s ability. Instead, it’s the absence of the back pain that dogged Kershaw over those years and into this season, when he started July on the injured list.

“Clayton has done a great job trying to get back, working hard and diligently every single day,” Roberts said. “That’s No. 1. For him to not have to guard and protect against his body or his back or whatever just gives him the freedom to execute pitches. … He feels healthy and strong. He was our ace last year, and he’s pitching like an ace again.”

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