Clayton Kershaw’s worst performance of the season came at Chase Field three months ago, but he’s been the best pitcher in baseball since.
Kershaw will try to find some rare success in the desert by continuing his dominance Wednesday night, when the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers attempt to sweep their two-game set from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Kershaw (15-3, 1.82 ERA) has already won the NL Cy Young Award twice – including last year – and seems on his way to match Sandy Koufax’s team record of three.
The four-time All-Star is also making a case to become the league’s first pitcher to win the MVP since Bob Gibson in 1968, and the first Dodgers pitcher since Koufax five years earlier.
Kershaw, though, didn’t belong in that company at Arizona (55-77) on May 17, surrendering seven runs while recording only five outs in an 18-7 loss. The defeat dropped him to 1-5 with a 5.24 ERA in his past six starts in Phoenix.
His latest performance there, however, proved to be an aberration – he’s compiled a 1.37 ERA in 17 starts since and has gone 6-0 with an 0.88 ERA in seven road games. That includes allowing one run in seven innings of a 4-3 home win over the Diamondbacks on June 13.
"You try to keep it to this year, but it’s just so impressive what he does year after year after year," said Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson, who was the Dodgers’ most recent MVP in 1988. "You’d have a hard time not drafting him first in your fantasy league, wouldn’t you?
"You have to give him credit for continuing to get better with what he’s got. He has the will and determination to not stop where he’s at."
Kershaw’s ERA and 0.83 WHIP are the lowest in baseball, and he was superb again in Thursday’s 2-1 win over San Diego. He allowed one run and struck out 10 in eight innings.
"I don’t know how to explain it," manager Don Mattingly told MLB’s official website. "I don’t think I’ve seen anybody like this guy. He’s just constantly driven, start to start.
"A guy that just has a huge motor, as far as wanting to compete."
Another dazzling performance from Kershaw could help Los Angeles build on Tuesday’s 9-5 victory, the team’s 12th in 16 road meetings with the Diamondbacks.
Arizona has dropped eight of 10 games, with its rotation compiling a 5.66 ERA in those defeats after Trevor Cahill was hammered for eight runs in 3 1-3 innings Tuesday.
The Diamondbacks now turn to Wade Miley (7-9, 4.29), but he’s 0-3 with a 5.18 ERA over his last six starts against the Dodgers. The lefty lost to them May 16, giving up four runs and two homers in six innings of a 7-0 home defeat.
Miley has allowed two runs – one earned – in 13 2-3 innings over his past two starts on the road but went 0-1 since he was backed by one total run. He didn’t get any runs of support while scattering eight hits with six walks in 6 2-3 innings of Thursday’s 1-0 loss at Washington.
It’s been a struggle for Miley at home, where he’s 2-6 with a 6.20 ERA in 13 starts.
While Matt Kemp is 1 for 9 versus Miley this year, the outfielder is 7 for 15 with two homers and five RBIs in the past four meetings with Arizona. He had two hits Tuesday, including a two-run shot in the first inning.
Scott Van Slyke might be back in the lineup after being given Tuesday off. He’s 7 for 16 with four homers and three doubles versus Miley, with three of the homers coming this year.