I am too young to have seen Koufax or Drysdale, and my memories of Valenzuela and Hershiser are unfortunately fewer than I would like.
But make no mistake: I will tell my grandchildren that I saw Clayton Kershaw pitch for the Dodgers. And what's more, I will tell them I saw Kershaw grow from an almost mythical prospect to an unbelievable force of nature. And tonight's performance, which I was lucky enough to see in person, solidified and crystallized that memory.
Eighth inning, the Dodgers already benefitted by a rare 6-0 lead and coasting, before a full house sparked by an Andre Ethier bobblehead giveaway as well as severely discounted tickets, which gave the Stadium a vibe it hasn't had much this season. The humidity of the night had given way to a cooler electric atmosphere, thanks to Kershaw allowing only three hits through seven frames. But two singles and a walk later, Kershaw was facing Mets cleanup hitter Ronny Paulino (batting .325) with two out and the bases juiced.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly comes out to the mound for some wafer-thin theatrics, but even though Donnie Baseball got burned earlier this season by leaving Kershaw in, you knew he would let him stay. And Mattingly did just that, retreating to the dugout alone.
Kershaw falls behind 2-1 and blows Paulino away to even the count. The crowd comes to its feet. Let me say this again: the Dodger Stadium crowd, notably absent all year and lacking any recent experience of what to do in this situation, comes to its feet with a two-strike count. That alone was truly amazing, only topped when Kershaw struck Paulino out on an off-speed pitch, earning his ninth K of the evening, and giving a little fist-in-glove pump as he walked off the mound to rampant cheers from all levels of the Stadium.
THIS is Dodger Baseball. And for one night, in an otherwise catastrophic season, Clayton Kershaw reminded us what greatness can be.