Clayton Kershaw took a perfect game through seven innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers in his season debut before being pulled, dominating the Minnesota Twins with 13 strikeouts in 21 batters during a 7-0 victory on Wednesday.
Manager Dave Roberts pulled Kershaw after 80 pitches on a cold afternoon at Target Field. Alex Vesia relieved for the eighth and gave up Minnesota’s first and only hit, a single by Gary Sánchez.
Cody Bellinger, Gavin Lux and Austin Barnes hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in the eighth against reliever Dereck Rodriguez, who made his Twins debut.
Justin Turner hit a two-run single in the first, Trea Turner had a sacrifuce fly in the second and Max Muncy went deep in the ninth for the Dodgers, who won a 7-2 game the night before that was paused for 1 1/2 hours due to rain and ended after midnight.
Kershaw was plenty refreshed, starting his 15th year with the Dodgers. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner needed only 80 pitches. He struck out the side in the sixth and fanned every Twins batter at least once except Gio Urshela, who grounded out to third and flied out to right in his first two at-bats.
Urshela hit a sharp grounder up the middle with two outs in the seventh that skidded under Kershaw’s glove as he tried to backhand the ball, but second baseman Gavin Lux, who was to the shortstop side of the base, reached the ball and made a spot-on throw for the out to end the inning.
Kershaw, who re-signed with the Dodgers for $17 million this year after missing more than two months in 2021 with inflammation in his left forearm, was slotted fifth in the rotation out of the gate. That unusual assignment was to give his arm more time to build up strength in light of the lockout-limited spring training schedule.
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With his slider in midseason form, Kershaw had the heavy presence of Dodgers fans in attendance among the crowd of 17,101 — taking in their favorite team's rare game at Minnesota — on their feet often as the anticipation and appreciation of Kershaw’s feat kept building. Kershaw threw a no-hitter on June 18, 2014, against Colorado.
Those same blue-clad customers booed when Vesia was spotted jogging in from the bullpen, with one of them sitting behind the plate yelling, “He had a perfect game!”
This was Kershaw's 66th career double-digit strikeout game in 380 regular season appearances. The Twins became the 27th major league team he faced, missing only the Red Sox and Angels.
Twins starter Chris Paddack had a rough debut, less than a week after he was acquired in a trade with the Padres. Paddack lasted four innings, with six hits and three runs allowed.
The Twins gave SS Carlos Correa a rest and CF Byron Buxton a turn at DH, as a reaction to the late night on Tuesday. Buxton struck out all three times he faced Kershaw.
Dodgers: RHP Walker Buehler (1-0, 1.80 ERA) takes the mound for the home opener on Friday at Dodger Stadium against Cincinnati. LHP Reiver Sanmartin (0-1, 19.29 ERA) pitches for the Reds to start the four-game series.
Twins: After an off day on Thursday, RHP Joe Ryan (0-1, 4.50 ERA) takes the mound at Fenway Park on Friday to begin a four-game series against Boston. RHP Nick Pivetta (0-1, 6.35 ERA) starts for the Red Sox.