At one point in the middle innings of Wednesday's game, as Clayton Kershaw was chewing up Rockies batters like a puppy with a piece of rawhide, a writer tweeted out a Dodgers scouting report of Kershaw from his days at Highland Park High School in Dallas.
Scouts grade on a 20-to-80 scale, evaluating each pitch on its current level and future potential, with 50 considered major league average. The Dodgers scout graded Kershaw's present curveball at 45, but with the potential to get up to ... 55.
The Dodgers drafted him anyway.
There's something majestic about watching Kershaw pitch. Is that the right word? Maybe. I don't know. I love the way he peers over the top of his black A2000 glove, an intense but relaxed focus. He's listed at 6-foot-3 but he always seems taller, maybe because of the way he raises his arms over his head in that unique windup with the pause at the apex of his delivery and then that little jerk as he begins to push forward. Certainly, his delivery serves a couple purposes: It creates balance and repetition, but it also serves to hide the ball from the batter in some fashion. Kershaw's repertoire is top-notch, of course, with a fastball he commands to all four quadrants of the plate, a nasty slider and then the curveball, old Public Enemy No. 1, the unhittable weapon. But the deception in his delivery is part of the reason he's the best pitcher in baseball.
I turned the game on in the fifth inning. Kershaw had his scraggly mountain-man beard going. He also had his stuff going. The Rockies lead the National League in hitting, but they don't lead the National League in hitting on the road. I didn't see one hard hit ball off him, although Josh Rutledge had a foul ball earlier in the game that was inches from going fair. By the end of the sixth inning, it seemed obvious: He's going to get the perfect game. Eighteen up, 18 down and the Rockies had zero chance. Fastball, fastball, Public Enemy No. 1. Good night, good luck and sit down. It's ridiculous to predict a perfect game, even when it's two-thirds complete, but that's how dominating Kershaw looked.
Of course, he didn't get the perfect game. In the top of the seventh, Corey Dickerson led off with a chopper toward short that Hanley Ramirez charged, fielded cleanly and then shanked the throw to first; an obvious error. With one out, Troy Tulowitzki hit a bouncer down the third-base line on which Miguel Rojas made a terrific play to gun down Tulo for the defensive play of the night.
The final seven outs were pretty easy. Wilin Rosario struck out looking on a curveball, Drew Stubbs swung through a curve, Rutledge swung and missed on another curve (although he somehow fouled off an 0-2 slider), Kyle Parker hit a cue ball right to Adrian Gonzalez at first. In the ninth, the crowd roaring and the camera flashing to Kershaw's wife, Ellen, between pitches, DJ LeMaheiu swung at a first-pitch fastball and grounded out, Gonzalez to Kershaw. Charlie Culberson also swung at the first pitch and hit a routine fly ball to right. Dickerson was the final batter. Kershaw blew a 94 mph fastball by him. Dickerson foul tipped a 95 mph heater. Somehow, Dickerson fouled off a curveball. You knew the curve was coming again. Dickerson had to have known it was coming. Over the past three seasons, Kershaw had recorded 169 strikeouts and walked one batter with the curve while allowing a .103 average. Here comes the Kershaw curveball, the best pitch in the game.
A.J. Ellis called for a slider. Beautiful.
Good night, good luck and no-hitter.
"It was just so much fun, I can't explain it," Kershaw said in his postgame interview.
"As far as individual games go, I'll remember this the rest of my life," he added as teammates dumped Gatorade him, blew soap bubbles and did a little Irish jig.
It's a game we can all remember. It was one of the greatest games ever pitched.
His final line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 15 SO, 107 pitches.
His final Game Score: 102. Here's the list of Game Scores of 100 or higher in a nine-inning game:
Kerry Wood, Cubs, 1998: 105 (1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 20 SO)
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, 2014: 102
Matt Cain, Giants: 2012: 101 (0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 14 SO)
Nolan Ryan, Rangers, 1991: 101 (0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 16 SO)
Sandy Koufax, Dodgers, 1965: 101 (0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 14 SO)
Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays, 2010: 100 (1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 17 SO)
Randy Johnson, D-backs, 2004: 100 (0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 13 SO)
Curt Schilling, D-backs, 2002: 100 (1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 17 SO)
Nolan Ryan, Angels, 1973: 100 (0 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 17 SO)
Nolan Ryan, Angels, 1972: 100 (1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 16 SO)
Warren Spahn, Braves, 1960: 100 (0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 15 SO)
Cain, Koufax and Johnson threw perfect games. The Game Score method doesn't subtract points for the error, only for walks, hits and runs allowed. By this measure, you can argue that Kershaw just threw the second-most dominant game in baseball history. You can debate, factor in the opponent, the prevalence of strikeouts in today's game. Still. No hits, no walks, 15 K's, only 107 pitches. Koufax threw 113 pitches in his perfect game. Cain threw 125. Johnson threw 117.
There have been others to lose perfect games due to a single error. Jonathan Sanchez of the Giants lost his in 2009 when Juan Uribe made an error in the eighth inning. Terry Mulholland of the Phillies lost his in 1990 on a seventh-inning error by Charlie Hayes, although he then induced a double play to still end up facing the minimum 27 batters. Jerry Reuss, Dick Bosman, Bill McCahan and Walter Johnson also lost perfect games due to an error.
So maybe the record books won't list this game as one of the 23 perfect games in major league history.
We'll have to settle for simply maybe the best ever.