Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw threw five innings in the season finale on Wednesday, allowing a solo homer and not much else to earn his 12th win of the season and lower his ERA to 2.28. Kershaw struck out nine to pass Cy Young for 24th place on the all-time leaderboard, capping a season that, other than two stints on the injured list, was as dominant as the 34-year-old lefty could have hoped for.
After the game, Kershaw reflected with the media on the season and why, when he was a free agent last season, he chose to come back to Los Angeles rather than retire or head home to Texas to play for the Rangers.
“It’s why I’m here. It’s why I wanted to be here. You think, back in March, thinking about your life and different options and things like that, and this is what we want to do. That doesn’t mean it’s just going to come easy, obviously, it’s going to be a grind, it’s going to be a challenge. That’s why I’m here, that’s what I want, and I’m looking forward to the next month.”
Kershaw’s 2021 season ended disastrously, with an elbow injury in the final weekend of the regular season sidelining him for the postseason and putting his future in question. The three-time Cy Young Award winner was asked if there was ever any doubt he could come back and be as dominant as he’s been this season.
“Yeah, for sure. I didn’t feel great until March, basically. So there was a lot of unknowns going into this year, let alone performance-wise. Overall, I think, I’m not going to say I’m surprised, but definitely thankful that I’ve felt alright this year and the stuff kind of held up.”
Kershaw’s second IL stint this year came in early August, when he felt something in his lower back during a start in San Francisco and walked off the mound in pain. He received an injection and almost immediately felt better, but manager Dave Roberts and the front office chose to proceed cautiously, leaving Kershaw on the IL for four weeks to make sure he was truly 100 percent before returning.
As it turns out, the team was right, as the timing gave Kershaw the perfect amount of buildup to head into the postseason feeling fresh and ready.
“Coming back, I think, was huge. I’m thankful that whenever my back kind of gave out in San Fran, it wasn’t a super-serious thing, just needed a couple weeks to reset. And then, the timing, I’m just thankful for that more than anything, I got September 1 to now to get ready, I got a full five weeks, basically — I don’t even know how many starts it was — but I got to build up, got to get ready. You can’t ask for anything more to get ready, I feel like I’m in as good a spot as I’m going to be.”
That’s a lot of “thankfuls” for the best pitcher of our generation, who has come to grips with his own mortality over the past several years. As he heads into his 11th postseason, he seems to have a perspective and wisdom informed by the highs and lows of experience.
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) October 5, 2022
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