The Dodgers’ ace, solidly among the Cy Young Award favorites once again, is making his sixth consecutive Opening Day start, the third against the San Diego Padres in that stretch. In his previous five openers, the club is 5-0, while in his three consecutive Opening Day starts from 2011-13, he delivered 19 consecutive scoreless innings.
That scoreless streak neglects to mention his home run to lead off the eighth inning of the 2013 opener against San Francisco that inspired a four-run inning and a 4-0 victory over a team coming off a World Series title.
His stranglehold on the Opening Day starting honor inspires an interesting trivia question: Who was the last Dodgers pitcher to start on Opening Day before Kershaw? (Answer below.)
Over his past five Opening Days, Kershaw has pitched 31 2/3 innings, giving up 21 hits and four runs, good for a 1.14 ERA. He also has a 7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in those games with 35 strikeouts and five walks.
“It’s a huge honor to be a part of it, obviously,” Kershaw said last week, after his final Cactus League start. “It’s tough to balance. It is just one game to the significance of getting to start it. It’s a tough balance there for sure, but I do enjoy getting to pitch it, for sure.”
Kershaw obviously is sensitive to putting too many eggs in one basket for team purposes. But he also has some monumental personal achievements to strive for.
The left-hander already has become the third pitcher in major league history with 1,500 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.50 or lower (his is 2.43) before his age-28 season. Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson are the only others to have accomplished that.
With 245 strikeouts this season (he had a career-best 301 last year), while maintaining his career ERA, he will join Johnson as the only pitchers with 2,000 strikeouts and 2.50 ERA or lower through their age-28 season.
More Kershaw historic figures, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:
He is one of six pitchers in major league history with more strikeouts than innings pitched (minimum 1,500 IP). Others on the list: Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Tim Lincecum.
Kershaw also has the lowest ERA in the Live Ball Era (minimum 1,500 IP) at 2.43. The four pitchers closest to him on the list -- Hoyt Wilhelm (2.52), Whitey Ford (2.75), Koufax (2.76) and Jim Palmer (2.86) -- all are in the Hall of Fame.
And if there is one Kershaw pitch to watch as the season gets underway, it is not necessarily his blazing fastball.
Not only did opponents hit just .121 against his curveball last year, second lowest to the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta (.119), he finished off 98 strikeouts with his curve, more than any other pitcher in baseball.
As for that trivia question, the last Dodgers pitcher to take the ball on Opening Day, before Kershaw, was Vicente Padilla (2010). If you answered that correctly, you must have been cheating, or else your last name is Padilla.