Kershaw in elite company with Opening Day shutout and home run
He may not have gotten his rumored $200 million extension in time to start the season, but Clayton Kershaw did have an Opening Day for the ages. He battled Giants ace Matt Cain zero for zero, and kept the defending world champions at bay even once his opposite number departed after six innings and 92 pitches. The game was still scoreless when he was due to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning, and given that his pitch count was only at 85, manager Don Mattingly didn't hesitate to let Kershaw hit for himself. Facing Giants righty George Kontos, he drilled a 92 mph first-pitch fastball right over the plate for a solo homer to dead centerfield, some 400 feet away:
It was the first major league homer of the 25-year-old Kershaw's career, and just his second extra base hit in 335 plate appearances; he came into today a career .146/.179/.149 hitter, though last year he hit a comparatively robust .207/.230/.224 in 75 PA.
The Dodgers followed Kershaw's homer by rallying for three more runs against the Giants bullpen in the eighth inning, keyed by Carl Crawford's double and a misplayed Mark Ellis bunt. That gave Kershaw enough breathing room to finish the job — his sixth career shutout — without working up a further sweat. Though he yielded a one-out single to Angel Pagan, he finished the game having thrown just 94 pitches, allowing just four baserunners, all on singles, while striking out seven.
Kershaw became the first hurler to hit a homer on Opening Day since Joe Magrane for the Cardinals back in 1988, and the 20th to do so since 1916, which is as far back as Retrosheet's complete box scores currently go. He's the fourth Dodger pitcher to do so; Curt Davis did it back in 1945, and Don Drysdale did it twice, in 1959 and 1965 — both years in which the Dodgers won world championships, incidentally.
Perhaps most impressively of all, at least as far back as Retrosheet's records go, he's the only pitcher besides Hall of Famer Bob Lemon to homer and pitch a shutout on Opening Day. Lemon did so against the White Sox on April 14, 1953. All in all, it was a pretty special day for the young southpaw.