Everything has been turned upside down around Major League Baseball this past month, and we’re not even referring to the already crazy trade deadline activity. We’re talking about a month filled with pitchers raking at the plate, and position players dealing on the pitcher’s mound.
On Friday night, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw took that trend to the next level, producing an offensive game from the pitcher’s spot that hasn’t been seen since 1959.
What made Clayton Kershaw’s performance special?
In the Dodgers 4-1 win against the Atlanta Braves, Kershaw reached base all four times he came to the plate. That included a two-run single against Braves All-Star pitcher Mike Foltynewicz that essentially cemented the Dodgers win.
In his other three plate appearances, Kershaw drew a walk each time. Not exactly thrilling, but good enough to produce a truly rare battling line.
Clayton Kershaw has three walks and a hit tonight.
The last starting pitcher to reach base four times in a game was Mike Leake in 2010.
The last pitcher with three walks and a hit in a game was Hall-of-Famer Whitey Ford in 1959. pic.twitter.com/KUkt5M2y58
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 28, 2018
On the hill, where he’s previously won three Cy Young awards and even an MVP for his pitching prowess, Kershaw was his usual brilliant self. He pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing just one earned run on six hits while striking out eight.
The eight strikeouts added a new significance to Kershaw’s all-around performance. Only two other pitchers during the live-ball era have finished with a single and three walks at the plate and eight strikeouts on the mound. One was Ford. The other was Robin Roberts in 1950.
Both pitchers are Hall of Famers. Kershaw seems likely to join them in Cooperstown too.
This isn’t Shohei Ohtani excelling as both a pitcher and hitter in MLB at the same time. It’s not even Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen mashing three home runs in a single week. It’s just fun, and a definite reminder that Kershaw is an excellent athlete.
There’s also this.
Clayton Kershaw is a better hitter than Carlos Gomez is a pitcher
As noted, we’ve seen a lot of good hitting from pitchers. We’ve also seen a lot of good pitching from hitters lately. Then there was veteran outfielder Carlos Gomez, who made his pitching debut in the Tampa Bay Rays 15-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Friday night.
It was…. not good.
Carlos Gomez, an OF as P, has been called for two balks and threw nine straight balls to start the outing. He's just walked another. Outside of @jaysonst this isn't entertaining for anyone.
— Dan Connolly (@danconnolly2016) July 28, 2018
Gomez recorded one out, getting Renato Nunez to fly out. He walked the four other batters he faced, with the two balks mixed in. Catcher Jesus Sucre finished the inning.
If it feels like we’re seeing more position players pitching than usual, that’s because we are.
It's not an exaggeration to say this is now an everyday occurrence. We've had 24 game days in July, and 23 PPPs. It's happened on 11 of 24 game days, and five of nine since the ASB.
— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) July 28, 2018
Apparently managers are focused on easing the workload of their pitchers. Saving them from throwing extra pitches late in blowout losses is one way to do that. In the past few weeks we’ve seen managers use multiple position players for multiple innings in a single game. We’ve even seen Anthony Rizzo out there for a batter. It used to be unique and fun. Now it’s happening nearly every day, and it’s getting kinda scary.
If Kershaw’s performance is the argument against MLB adopting a universal designated hitter, perhaps Gomez’s outing is the argument for expanding rosters before September.
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