The question in baseball circles had long been not if but rather when.
On Wednesday night, we got our answer.
Never mind that the Dodgers were four for their first six with runners in scoring position. Never mind that half of those hits were for extra bases. Never mind that they staked Clayton Kershaw to an eight-run lead through four innings.
Their ace was in the middle of a gem. That gem — one of those, you know, nobody wants to sit next to you in the dugout type of nights.
And when Rockies leadoff hitter Corey Dickerson swung and missed at Kershaw’s 107th pitch of the evening to seal an 8-0 Dodger win, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner finally had his first career no-hitter.
Striking out a career-high 15 and looking about as dominant as a pitcher can, Kershaw threw the 22nd no-hitter in franchise history as Los Angeles completed a three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium. For Kershaw, it was simply latest accomplishment in one of the more remarkable careers ever by a pitcher four years shy of his 30th birthday.
But Kershaw was more than unhittable — he was nearly, perhaps should have been — perfect. Indeed, the kind of game a pitcher finds himself alone in the dugout as the innings tick away.
"I don’t really talk during the games, anyway," Kershaw said, "It’s just that I’m not very approachable, I guess, is the best way to (put) it."
As far as the Rockies were concerned, their approach was all wrong Wednesday night as Kershaw repeatedly missed bats.
The line: nine innings, no hits, no runs, no walks, the career-high 15 strikeouts — the most by any pitcher in a no-hitter since Nolan Ryan punched out 16 against the Blue Jays in 1991.
Kershaw retired 18 in a row to start the game. The only thing separating him from a perfect game was Dickerson reaching on a throwing error by Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez to lead off the seventh.
Still, the Dodgers ace remained unfazed. He got Brandon Barnes to strike out swinging. Miguel Rojas made a phenomenal play at third base making a throw from foul territory across the diamond to retire Troy Tulowitzki. Then Kershaw struck out Wilin Rosario to end the inning.
Error? No biggie.
"I just kind of shrugged like ‘Nothing you can do, good try,’ " Kershaw said of his reaction to Ramirez following the game’s most talked about play.
The Dodgers shortstop was visibly upset following the play but was able to take solace in knowing Kershaw had his back.
"That’s the kind of person he is," Ramirez said. "He got a great heart. He knows that we give everything we got every day on the field."
Ultimately, that’s what Wednesday night boiled down to. The heart, the grit, the toughness of Kershaw. The results of hard work being scattered through 27 outs without a hit — a game so dominant, he needed only six pitches in his final inning of work.
It was the second no-hitter of the season in MLB. Of course, teammate Josh Beckett threw the first on May 25, making this just the second season in team history when a pair of Dodgers threw no-hitters. The other was in 1956, when Carl Erskine and Sal Maglie threw the final two no-hitters in Brooklyn Dodgers history.
"I’ve seen some great pitching performances, but it’s tough to be any better than Kershaw," Colorado manager Walt Weiss said.
Added Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis: "I started tearing up out there in the ninth inning, just sitting out there catching and watching him throw after he got those first two outs. It was pretty special."
And Ellis wasn’t alone in his admiration. When the final out was made, Kershaw was mobbed by his teammates. The respect they had for their ace was crystal clear to Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly.
"You know what’s cool about tonight?" Mattingly said. "It’s that all of those guys sit out there and watch him. I think when you talk to our guys, nobody deserves it more than him because they know he works hard every day. He does everything the right way. He’s a great teammate.
"He’s won a couple of Cy Youngs but that doesn’t even get in the way. He’s just going forward all the time. It’s just nice to watch someone like that get it. . . . He’s just special."