On June 20, 2008, Kershaw made his sixth career start, facing eventual AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee. Kershaw went five innings, allowing four runs and four hits, with five strikeouts and three walks. He got a no-decision, as the Indians won 6-4 in 10 innings.
Kershaw was less than a month removed from his major-league debut. He didn’t earn his first win until his 10th career start, so this was a case of good things coming to those who wait.
Lee was 29 at the time, the same age that Kershaw is now. His end-of-season stat line could be best describe as Kershawian. He went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA and won the AL Cy Young.
This was a time when the Dodgers were treating their 20-year-old prospect very carefully. It was the fifth in a streak of eight straight starts in which Kershaw failed to complete six innings. They’ve treated their latest lefty phenom, Julio Urias, in similar fashion.
Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta was then a rising star (though not quite like Francisco Lindor). He drove in the winning run with a 10th-inning double. The Dodgers’ star that night was 40-year-old second baseman, Jeff Kent, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Kent retired at the end of the season. He’s now 49, just over 20 years older than Kershaw.
The Indians’ third baseman that night was Casey Blake, who had a single and double against Kershaw. A little more than a month later, the Indians traded Blake to the Dodgers in return for pitcher Jon Meloan and a prospect a couple of years away from the major leagues – current Indians first baseman and cleanup hitter Carlos Santana.
Among that which happened in baseball that day – the Blue Jays fired manager John Gibbons, replacing him with Cito Gaston. Gibbons would return to the Blue Jays as their manager in 2013.
This turned out to be quite the day for pitching. Others to pitch in the majors included Greg Maddux (seven innings, one run for the Padres against the Tigers), Randy Johnson (eight innings IP, seven runs for Diamondbacks in loss to Twins) and Roy Halladay (seven scoreless innings for the Blue Jays against the Pirates).
Johnson has five Cy Young Awards, Maddux has four, Kershaw has three, Halladay has two and Lee has one.
Nine years later, Kershaw has a 1.31 ERA in games in which he faced either a current or future Cy Young Award winner, allowing 23 earned runs in 22 starts. The Dodgers are 18-4 in those games, so this was a rare defeat.
John Fisher also contributed to this post