MLB Notebook: Southpaws shine Down Under
Kershaw makes fourth straight Opening Day start; Ryu follows in Dodgers' sweep
During the 1956 season, Indians southpaw Herb Score and White Sox left-hander Billy Pierce ended the year first and second in the American League in strikeouts, and they finished with identical 20-9 records. So when these two hurlers got loose on Opening Day in 1957 in preparation for a head-to-head matchup, it figured to be a fairly long and uncomfortable day for the batters. The game itself went 11 frames, with both starters going the distance. Battling all day, Score walked 11 and surrendered seven hits, but he managed to somehow allow just three runs. But Pierce gave up just two and came away with the victory for the Pale Hose. As for the strikeouts, Pierce had nine and Score collected 10 (giving him 20 career double-digit strikeout games in 69 appearances -- an insane number back then, and still tied for the second most for any pitcher since 1914). In the 100 seasons from 1914-2013, this game is one of only two to see both teams open their season with left-handed starters who both racked up at least nine K's.
In the first game of the 2014 regular season, the Dodgers -- behind 6 2/3 strong innings from Clayton Kershaw -- topped the D-backs, 3-1. Kershaw (one run, five hits, seven K's, walk) made his fourth consecutive Opening Day start. He is now 3-0 in those four appearances. The four Opening Day starts tie him with Nap Rucker, Van Mungo, Carl Erskine and Orel Hershiser for fifth most for the Dodgers' franchise since 1901.
Don Drysdale and Don Sutton lead the way, with seven apiece; Fernando Valenzuela (six) and Ramon Martinez (five) follow. For those curious about Sandy Koufax, he made one Opening Day start, throwing a six-hit shutout with five strikeouts and no walks in 1964.
Kershaw is also the first Dodgers pitcher since Martinez (from 1995-98) to make four consecutive Opening Day starts, and with one run allowed in his stint, the left-hander's Opening Day ERA now stands at 0.35 (one earned run in 25 2/3 innings).
Among Dodgers pitchers with multiple Opening Day starts since 1914, that ERA is the lowest. Among active pitchers with at least four Opening Day starts, Kershaw's is the lowest. In six Opening Day starts, Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez owns a 1.33 mark, while Jake Peavy also holds a 1.33 ERA in four outings.
Since debuting in 2008, Kershaw has 72 outings in which he has finished with at least six innings pitched and no more than one run allowed. Since the start of the 2008 season, only Hernandez (76) and Jered Weaver (73) have more.
Kershaw entered 2014 (his age-26 season) with the following career numbers: a 2.60 ERA (146 ERA+), a 1.092 WHIP, 6.83 hits per nine innings and 1,206 strikeouts. Among all pitchers since 1893, through their age-25 seasons, Kershaw's:
• 2.60 ERA is 17th lowest *
• 146 ERA+ is fourth best
• 1.092 WHIP is sixth best
• 6.83 hits per nine is second best
• 1,206 K's stands as the 10th-highest total
* Minimum of 1,000 innings for all rate stats
Kershaw was able to receive a win for his effort, largely thanks to the batting work of left fielder Scott Van Slyke. Making his first Opening Day start, Van Slyke doubled in the second (setting the table for the team's first run) and hit a two-run homer in the fourth. The 27-year-old is the 10th Dodgers player since 1914 to have at least one double and at least one homer on Opening Day, and the first to do this since Raul Mondesi in 1995. The others: Babe Herman (1929), Danny Taylor ('34), Cookie Lavagetto ('38), Ernie Koy ('38), Pee Wee Reese ('42), Duke Snider ('53), Willie Davis ('65) and Rick Monday ('78). With the exception of Herman's star turn, all of the rest came in Dodgers victories.
D-backs left-hander Wade Miley made his first Opening Day start and took the loss, surrendering three runs in five innings. In Arizona's 17-year history, the franchise has seen seven hurlers make an Opening Day start. Andy Benes took care of the first one in 1998, and then Randy Johnson handled six straight from 1999-2004. Javier Vazquez followed in '05, Brandon Webb started four in a row from 2006-09, Dan Haren got the nod in '10 and Ian Kennedy made three straight starts after that.
With Kershaw fanning seven and Miley striking out eight, this Opening Day matchup (meaning the first game for both teams) was just the third since 1914 to feature two southpaw starters each record at least seven K's. On April 16, 1957, Chicago's Pierce and Cleveland's Score did it; on April 7, 1970, Cleveland's Sam McDowell fanned 11 but was outpitched by the Orioles lefty Dave McNally, who fanned 13 and allowed two runs in an 8-2 win in which he pitched a four-hit complete game.
Dodgers' southpaws make it 2-for-2 in Australia
In the second game of the 2014 regular season, the Dodgers withstood a late D-backs rally and held on for a 7-5 victory. The Dodgers have opened the season 2-0 for the fourth time in the past seven years. Between 1996-2007, they did it twice. The D-backs opened 0-2 for the first time since 1999 (the franchise's second season), when they dropped two straight to the Dodgers. After that second loss on April 6, Arizona went 100-60.
Dodgers southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu allowed just two hits in five scoreless innings to pick up the win.
Ryu improved to 15-8 in his career, and joined Don Newcombe, Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii as the only Dodgers pitchers since 1914 to have as many as 15 wins through their first 31 appearances;
With Ryu following Kershaw's strong start on Opening Day, the Dodgers opened the season with two left-handed starters for the second straight year (with Kershaw and Ryu also responsible last year). The last time the Dodgers had a pair of lefties start Games 1 and 2 in consecutive seasons was 1983-85 (Valenzuela and Jerry Reuss in '83; Valenzuela and Rick Honeycutt in '84; Valenzuela and Reuss in '85).
Before Kershaw and Ryu last weekend, the last season to see a pair of Dodgers southpaws start and win the first two games of the year was 1952, when Preacher Roe and Chris Van Cuyk did it. The last team before the '14 Dodgers to accomplish this was the '07 Marlins, with Dontrelle Willis and Scott Olsen.
• D-backs left fielder Mark Trumbo drove in three runs for his club, contributing an RBI single in the eighth and a two-run homer in the ninth. Trumbo was responsible for his team's only run in the first game, driving in one on a groundout. He is the 14th Arizona player to have at least one RBI in each of the team's first two games of the year, but the first of those 14 to have those two games also represent his first two games in a new uniform.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.