MILWAUKEE -- The last time that the Los Angeles Dodgers lost a game that Clayton Kershaw started was in May. That was May of this year, but still.
There may be no absolutely sure things in baseball, but Kershaw comes as close to that category as anybody can.
In the 13 starts since his last loss, Kershaw is 11-0 and the Dodgers are 13-0. Over that same period of time, Kershaw has an earned run average of 1.16. He's not perfect, but again, he gets closer to that category than anybody else. With Kershaw in the rotation, a Dodger losing streak longer than four games would seem to be a virtual impossibility.
Kershaw won the NL Pitcher of the Month award in both June and July. There is a chance that he won't win this award in November.
In any case, at the end of the year, Kershaw is very likely to win the equivalent of the NL Pitcher of the Year award, which is more commonly known as the Cy Young. This would be his third Cy Young Award in the last four years. And he is only 26 years old.
The opposition knows all this, sees all this, but the rules of the game require them to keep trying until 27 outs have been recorded against them. They have to hope at this point that Kershaw has an off day. But then, he doesn't seem to have those any more.
"My gosh, he's got a tremendous fastball with location," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "He's got a cutter. His curveball is a punch-out curveball. I mean, this guy is the best in baseball."
Sunday at Miller Park, Kershaw did what the great ones are supposed to do. The Dodgers were on the edge of being swept in a three-game series for the first time this season. But Kershaw wouldn't allow that to happen.
The Dodgers pulled away late for a 5-1 victory. Kershaw allowed one run over eight innings against a difficult Milwaukee lineup in hitter-friendly Miller Park.
He would seem be the ideal candidate for preventing a sweep. Then again, he would be an ideal candidate for any sort of pitching circumstance.
"You can throw him in there for the best guy for any kind of situation you want to put him in," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Stop a streak, continue a streak, start a streak, whatever you want, Clayton's pretty good in any situation."
Kershaw said he did not have his best stuff in this outing. "It was not easy," the left-hander said. "They're a great team, you can see why they're in first place. They swing the bats really well. I'm going to have to figure it out when we face them again [next weekend in Los Angeles]. Maybe we'll have to change the game plan a little. It was OK, but there are definitely some things I can get better at."
"It was like a clinic on how to win when you don't have your best stuff," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said of Kershaw's work.
Kershaw, apparently not content with controlling the game on the mound, excelled in the rest of the game as well. In the fifth inning, when this was still a one-run contest, the Brewers had Rickie Weeks on third and one out. Jean Segura popped up a squeeze bunt and Kershaw made a diving, fully-extended catch, then fired to third to double off Weeks.
"As soon as he lets go of that ball, he becomes the ninth defender," Ellis said.
At the plate, Kershaw was retired once in four plate appearances. He was hit by a pitch, walked, hit an RBI single and scored a run.
"It's fun to feel like a baseball player every once in a while," Kershaw said with a smile. "We get labeled as pitchers-only. Every once in a while you get some dirt on your jersey and it's fun."
Kershaw is 14-2 with a 1.78 earned run average. That ERA would be astounding, except that he finished at 1.83 last season.
At this moment, he is the best left-hander since Randy Johnson and the best starting pitcher in the game. If he continues at anything close to his current level, and the Dodgers hang onto first place in the NL West, an argument could he made that Kershaw should be both the Cy Young winner and the Most Valuable Player in the NL for 2014.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less