And, then there were two.
In his last start against the Rockies Clayton Kershaw threw eight more shutout innings. That brings his streak to 36, the number of innings he's tossed without allowing a run. When the game started Kershaw’s streak had him 11th in LA Dodgers franchise history.
Now, he’s third.
In his sights now are Don Drysdale’s 58 scoreless innings mark and the man who currently sits on the throne of the club, Orel Hershiser, who still holds the Major League record with his run of shutting teams out for 59 straight innings.
Kershaw’s on fire, but he’s still 23 innings short. One hanging curve or slider turned batting practice fastball, and the streak could be done.
It makes what “Big D” and “The Bulldog” accomplished even more impressive.
Let’s look at a few of their highlights.
-May 14: Drysdale starts the streak by hurling a two-hitter to beat Hall-of-Famer Ferguson Jenkins and the Cubs, 2-0, at Dodger Stadium. He walked three batters and struck out seven to improve his record to 2-3.
-May 22: Drysdale went toe-to-toe against another Hall-of-Famer, Bob Gibson, who would go on to win both the N.L. M.V.P and Cy Young awards that season. Drysdale shut the door on the Reds offense. He only allowed five hits, he struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter. But, Gibson was even better. The only hit “Gibby” gave up in his eight innings of work was a double to Wes Parker that scored Paul Popovich. Luckily, it was all the Dodgers needed in a 1-0 win. Drysdale’s scoreless streak hit 27 innings.
-May 31: The day the streak ended, then didn’t. Drysdale hit Giants catcher Dick Dietz with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. However, home plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt ruled that Dietz didn’t try to get out of the pitch’s way. Dietz would later pop out. Drysdale then retired the next two hitters to complete a six-hit shutout. The Dodgers won, 3-0. The streak hit 45 innings.
-June 8: The day the streak did end, really this time, against the Phillies. With one out in the fifth inning Howie Bedell hit a sacrifice fly to score Tony Taylor. The first run the burly right-hander allowed in 58 innings was also Bedell’s only RBI that season. Go figure. By that point in the game Drysdale had passed Walter Johnson to set the Major League consecutive scoreless innings record. One that stood for 30 years. Oh, and he also recorded the win.
With that miraculous stretch of dominance Drysdale finished the season with a 2.15 ERA in 239 innings, though his record was only 14-12. The six shutouts he threw in a row during the streak are still a Major League Record.
-Aug. 30: The crowd of 21,454 in Olympic Stadium in Quebec, Canada had no idea that what they witnessed was the start of an historic trek. Hershiser gave up a fifth-inning single to Expos pitcher Dennis Martinez that scored Tim “Rock” Raines. He didn’t allow a runner to second base the last four innings of the game. Thus, the streak began.
-Sept. 23: The baseball gods must’ve been at work because just like Don Drysdale’s in ‘68, Orel’s streak almost ended at the hands of the San Francisco Giants. In the third inning, outfielder Brett Butler’s slide into second base broke up a double play by causing Dodger shortstop Alfredo Griffin's throw to sail over first baseman Tracy Woodson’s head. A run scored and was posted on the scoreboard. But, umpire Bob Engel ruled that Butler was guilty of interference. He called Butler out, the run didn’t count and Hershiser’s streak was still in tact at 42 innings. He finished off a five-hit shutout for his last regular season win.
-Sept. 28: Orel needed nine shutout innings to tie Drysdale, 10 to beat him. He got the former against the Padres, but his teammates hadn’t scored. So, the game went into extras in a 0-0 tie. Hershiser wanted to be done, having expressed previously that he never wanted to break the record, only tied it, if it was within his grasp. His manager Tommy Lasorda wasn’t having any of it. “I said to him, ‘You get your ass out there and break the record’,” Lasorda said, according to Mark Simon of ESPN. Hershiser went out for the tenth, and this happened:
The game should've ended on that moment, but it didn't. Hershiser would not factor in the outcome. The Dodgers lost the game, 2-1, in 16th innings.
The streak ended the first inning of his first start in the 1989 season.
But, in the midst of that magical run The Bulldog lived up to his name.
Hershiser threw five complete game shutouts during the streak. Opposing hitters went 0 for 31 against him with runners in scoring position an he only allowed three extra base hits.
The resilient right-hander went on to win the NL Cy Young Award in a unanimous vote. He tied for the Major League lead in complete games (15) and shutouts (8), and tied for second in wins (23).
That’s quite the company Kershaw is close to joining. No pressure though.