Tonight’s Opening Day match-up between the Giants and the Dodgers reminded me of a scene from the classic film ” Shawshank Redemption”, and a very memorable scene where Morgan Freeman is carving his name in an old sector of the halfway house and he says “Either Get Busy Livin, or Get Busy Dyin”. Clayton Kershaw’s mastery against the World Champs line up today felt like a twisted metaphor. Giants hitters needed to “Either Get Busy Swinging or Get Busy Sitting” as Kershaw, struck out 9, only allowing 4 hits thru 7 dominant innings; outdueling Tim Lincecum and San Francisco Giants in a 2-1 Opening Day victory.
Kershaw, 23, became the youngest Dodger Opening Day starter since Fernando Valuenzuela took the mound back in 1983. But his poise and confidence made it seem as if he’s been there and done that. Kershaw dominated the Giant hitters with a top heavy fastball, that ranged anywhere from 88-95 mph and his off-speed pitches were tremendous. At one stint he struck out 4 Giant hitters all of them with a sweeping slider that broke from the left hand side of the plate and wound up literally at the feet of the right handed hitters. Left handed bats were welcomed with a moving fastball that had a slight cut back on the inside corner of the plate practically freezing their hands in mid motion of their swing. This is the kind of pitching you would expect from a Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum other seasoned #1 veteran pitchers. Kershaw’s performance provided us with a glimpse of his budding potential. There is no question he is the Ace of the LA Dodgers, but throwing 7 shoutout innings, and commanding the strike zone the way he did sent a clear message to the rest of division. The Giants, and Rockies are not the only teams who have a dominant #1.
Just to give you idea of how unreal Kershaw’s performance was, in the first 3 innings he had 6 strikeouts. Thru 7 he had 9 strikes-out on 92 pitches. He had a more effective opening day performance than CC Sabathia. The key to Kershaw’s ability to dominate was efficiency and and high Strike to Ball ratio. Out of 92 pitches made, 65 were strikes. This means that Kershaw’s ability to command the strike zone without walking batters kept him in the game. He made quality pitches ,where even balls look like strikes and he forced the Giant hitters to swing outside of their hitting zones. This kind of pitching saavy shows the kind of growth Kershaw is capable of as he grows into his role.
The key moment of the game came in the 6th inning, where the Dodgers just took a 1-0 lead on Giant misplays and errors. The bases were loaded with two outs. Dodger manager, Don Mattingly, has a decision to make with Kershaw coming up to hit. Matting can either take Kershaw out, and rely on his bullpen to pitch the seventh thru ninth innings, and use a pinch hitter to see if they can bust this game open with a quality at-bat. Or roll the dice, let Kershaw hit, and keep him in the game because he feels Kershaw can give him one more quality inning which allows him to put in Hong Chich Kuo, their 8th inning closer. Mattingly goes with Kershaw. In 2010 this decision would have concluded with Kershaw sitting on the bench with a towel over his head and some pats on the shoulder, “Job Well Done”. What a luxury it must be for Mattingly to even have this kind of flexibility.
Although this is 1 out of 162 games, the long term effects of this victory speak volumes on what kind of pitcher Clayton Kershaw can become by seasons end. These are all good signs that Kershaw can have a possible Cy-Young type of season. More importantly it also shows, that having a pitcher like Kershaw will keep the Dodgers competitive in one run ball games, a record they would love to improve from last year’s disappointing season.
About the Author
Written by Cal Lee
An Avid follower of all sports. Played Athletics in High School and College. Baseball is my favorite sport, but am very much in tune with Football, Basketball. Currently covering major sporting events, and aspiring to be involved in Sports Entertainment through a Media Capacity. Currently Media Correspondent/Contributor for CBS Interactive GameCore