Kershaw flirts with no-no in Dodgers' win
Leadoff double by Ross in eighth ends 21-year-old's bid
MIAMI -- Clayton Kershaw was being compared to Sandy Koufax before he pitched in a Major League game, so while Sunday marked the first time in his brief career that he flirted with a no-hitter, manager Joe Torre predicted it won't be the last.
Kershaw lost his brush with history on a double leading off the bottom of the eighth inning by former Dodger Cody Ross, which ended Kershaw's work day in what became a 12-5 Dodgers win over the Marlins. Ross' grand slam off Guillermo Mota in the bottom of the ninth prevented an utter blowout.
"Oh, yeah, he's got that Koufax dominance, stuff-wise," Torre said. "He has the same type of curveball. Sandy pitched with the fastball, he was able to spot it. Assuming this kid gets to the point where he's more consistent, throwing it where he wants to. Any time he's out there and able to do something with a pitch other than his fastball."
Coming off a five-inning loss in Philadelphia that prompted a meeting with Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Kershaw wasn't all that impressed with this start because he was still wild enough to walk four in seven-plus innings.
As for comparisons to Koufax, he most politely indicated to give that talk a rest.
"Right now, it is unfair to compare," Kershaw said. "I haven't done anything to consider myself in the same breath as him. That's my dream to someday be at that level. But Sandy Koufax was one of the greatest left-handed pitchers, if not the greatest left-handed pitcher. It's the greatest compliment to be mentioned with him. That's the only way I think about it."
On Sunday, Kershaw not only had the overpowering fastball and could throw his overhand curveball for strikes, but with catcher Brad Ausmus coaxing him on from the game's start, he threw more changeups "than I have all season."
He struck out nine, including the side in the seventh inning. But the Dodgers' four-run eighth inning was long, and Torre suspected the down time was a bigger factor in Kershaw leaving a fastball up for Ross than the workload of 112 pitches.
"Any time it's a long inning, it's been hard for me to get loose," said Kershaw, who threw a no-hitter in high school. "If it was earlier in the game, I would have gone in the tunnel and thrown into a cage or fence. But the eighth inning, I wanted to maintain my strength for the rest of the game. I just left a pitch up and he did what he's supposed to do."
Torre quickly brought the hook, deciding Kershaw's 21-year-old arm is too promising to take chances on for the sake of a shutout or complete game. Kershaw was charged with a run when Ross scored on Emilio Bonifacio's sacrifice fly off Mota.
Torre said he didn't know how long he would have left Kershaw in had the no-hitter continued but that he was an "old hat" at making such changes.
"You have to be careful not to get him hurt," Torre said.
It figured to be Ross, who tormented the Dodgers throughout the series.
"People still talk about Anibal [Sanchez] no-hitting the Diamondbacks in '06," Ross said. "They still have a ceremony for him back in Venezuela, I think. When you get no-hit, you're in the record books for a long time. You don't want to be part of that. You don't want to be on the lineup card of a pitcher inside of his house."
The results, nonetheless, were a stark turnaround for Kershaw, who came into the game winless in four previous road starts with a 1-3 record overall and 5.21 ERA.
"I kind of ended the road question," Kershaw suggested, having come into the game with a 9.47 road ERA.
Torre and Honeycutt stressed the importance of making in-game adjustments, not trying to overpower every batter and asked Kershaw to stay in the middle of the rubber and not slide to the third-base side.
"I've never seen anybody with his polish at his age," Torre said. "He's got a lot to learn and he'll get better. But there's no hesitancy about him."
Kershaw received defensive help, two plays in particular. In the first inning, left fielder Juan Pierre made a running catch of Wes Helms' fly into the corner. In the second inning, right fielder Xavier Paul made a diving catch of Jeremy Hermida's sinking line drive.
Offensively, Torre started his bench. Mark Loretta, Juan Castro, Paul and Ausmus started, as did Pierre in place of Manny Ramirez. Pierre and Loretta had three hits and three RBIs each, Castro homered and scored four runs, Ausmus had a hit and a run and Paul walked twice with two runs.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.