Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw agrees to be pulled from perfect play

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More than a few baseball fans were frustrated, if not outraged, when Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts lifted Clayton Kershaw from a game on Wednesday, even though the star’s left-hander was perfect through seven innings. Kershaw, however, was fine with that decision.

At least that’s what the 34-year-old told reporters after the Dodgers’ 7-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. Kershaw needed 80 spots to stop all 21 batsmen he met and got 13 strikeouts along the way. His replacement in the eighth inning, reliever Alex Vesia, gave up a single to the second batter he met. It ended the team’s chance to complete the first combined perfect game in MLB’s history.

The Dodgers came away with a combined one-hitter after another reliever, Justin Bruihl, shut things out with a 1-2-3 ninth. But much of the discussion during and after the competition centered on what could have – and should have, in the opinion of some observers – been a chance for Kershaw to add his name to a very short list. In the long history of Major League Baseball, there have been only 23 perfect matches, and none since 2012.

“I would love to have stayed [in the game], but bigger things, man, bigger things, ”Kershaw said after his first start of the season. He added that Roberts made “the right decision” to pull him off despite the circumstances.

“Blame the lockout,” Kershaw said. “Blame it on me not picking up a ball for three months [during the offseason]. “

Kershaw, whose star career has been interrupted by a series of injuries, sat out two months last season with a forearm / elbow problem. He exacerbated the injury when he returned in September and missed the Dodgers’ postseason race, which ended in a National League Championship Series loss to the Atlanta Braves. Kershaw reportedly waited until January to begin his offseason throwing program, and his ability to step up to the regular season competition was hampered by the owners’ lockout, which shortened the spring training.

“As much as I would have liked to do,” he said Wednesday about trying to finish a perfect game, “I have thrown 75 seats in a sim game. I had not gone six innings, let alone seven.”

“Every decision I make is in the best interests of the player, their health and the ball club,” Roberts said, “because there are a lot of people cheering on the Dodgers, not just for today and Clayton for throwing a no-hitter, but for the Dodgers to win the World Series. For us to do that, we need him healthy. “

Kershaw expressed sympathy for the missed chance from Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes to be part of a history-making battery. “Barnesy did a great job and it’s fun to get to catch one of them, so I wanted to do it with Barnesy,” he said. “It would be special. But in the end, it’s individual thing. It’s selfish goals, and we’re trying to win.”

Barnes agreed that Roberts’ choice was in the best interest of a starting pitcher who might not be ready to approach 100 pitches.

“Later in the season, when he’s a little more built up, I think he’s going out there [for the eighth inning]”said the catcher about Kershaw,” but I think it was the right call to take him out. “

It’s not like that, including veteran pitcher Jake Arrieta.

“You have to let Kershaw roll in 8.” tweeted Arrieta, who is a free agent. “It does not matter if it is his 1st or 30th start. … If anyone has ever deserved the court, it’s him. Roll the damn dice. “

Roberts has made a similar decision in the past. In 2016, he pulled Rich Hill after the seventh inning of a perfect match Hill had against the Miami Marlins. At the time, according to Elias Sports Bureau (via mlb.com), Roberts became the first manager since at least 1900 not to let a pitcher reach the eighth inning with a perfect play on the line. Afterwards, Roberts cited a problem with one of Hill’s fingers, and while the pitcher said he “did not want to get out of the game,” he repeated to Kershaw, pointing to “a bigger picture here.”

A three-time Cy Young Award winner and eight-time all-star, Kershaw has never thrown a perfect game. He hit a no-hitter for the Dodgers in 2014, contributing to the franchise’s MLB leader a total of 26 such performances.

On Wednesday, he credited his dominant move to “knock the zone” with strikes. He finished with 53 strokes for 27 balls and he got a match score of 90one exceptionally high number for a start of seven inputs.

In order not to be allowed to go for the perfect game, Kershaw said, “Of course I would have loved to do that, but maybe we’ll get another chance – who knows?”

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