Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw has put up strong numbers this season,… (Gary A. Vasquez / U.S. Presswire )
You can call Clayton Kershaw the ace of the Dodgers' staff, one of the best young pitchers in Major League Baseball, even a probable All-Star. He's earned those compliments.
But the 23-year-old left-hander seems to gauge his success using a different kind of barometer.
In May, when Kershaw pitched his first complete game of the season, he downplayed the achievement by pointing out that Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay already had four complete games.
And Halladay was a topic of conversation again this week, when Kershaw learned he had been chosen the National League's player of the week for the first time.
Kershaw was recognized as a result of two complete-game victories, including one against the Angels, whom he will face again Saturday in Anaheim.
Kershaw now has three complete games; Halladay has five.
"I think Halladay, for me, personally … he's the guy," Kershaw said.
What Kershaw neglected to mention, or perhaps didn't know, was that he has pitched nine innings as many times as Halladay. Two of Halladay's complete games were losses in which he pitched eight innings.
Kershaw said he admires Halladay's consistency, pointing to how the Phillies have won each of his last eight starts.
"There's a lot of guys having really good years, but day in, day out, what he brings to that team …," Kershaw said. "You just know, that team, when he goes out there, they're feeling pretty good about their chances. That's definitely where I'd like to get to."
It could be argued that he's already there.
Pitching for a team substantially inferior to the Phillies, Kershaw has won his last six decisions to improve to 8-3.
Through Thursday, Kershaw led the National League in strikeouts with 128 and was tied for third with 1162/3 innings pitched.
From the time he reached the majors at 20 as a hard-thrower with a knee-buckling curveball, Kershaw has always had a goal of improved efficiency.
He has pitched at least seven innings in four of his last six starts.
"I think if you pitch deep into games, whether you're giving up runs or not, you're giving your team a chance to win, you're giving your bullpen a breather," he said. "I think that, more than anything, is the important thing as a starter: Stay in there as long as you can, give your team a chance."
Manager Don Mattingly said improvements Kershaw has made to his slider and changeup have been pivotal in putting him in position to make his first All-Star appearance. All-Star rosters will be announced Sunday, a day after Kershaw faces the Angels for the second time in less than a week.
General Manager Ned Colletti and Mattingly said Kershaw "absolutely" deserved to be selected.
Said Mattingly: "I would match him up with anybody, anywhere. And it doesn't matter which league."
Mattingly has often talked about Kershaw's competitive streak, saying it was one of the reasons he didn't hesitate making him the Dodgers' opening-day starter. And Kershaw didn't disappoint, beating the San Francisco Giants and ace Tim Lincecum, 2-1.
More recently, after Kershaw's complete-game shutout against the Detroit Tigers last week, Mattingly guessed that if Kershaw could have changed anything on that night, it would have been the opposition.
"He would've really liked if [Justin] Verlander was pitching against him," Mattingly said. "He likes pitching against the best."
Then he'll like his matchup Saturday because he's scheduled to face Angels ace Jered Weaver, who is 9-4 with a 1.97 earned-run average.
Kershaw relishes that type of challenge, especially during a season that has offered a fair share of frustration.
Above all, his team is in last place.
"We have all the pieces, that's the frustrating part," Kershaw said. "We're not stringing the wins together like we should. We should be playing better than we are."
There's also the matter of the Dodgers' ownership situation. The team's union representative, Kershaw said of the club's bankruptcy filing: "All it sounds like it's just delaying the process a little more. I don't know if it changes anything on our end, but it's one more thing to hear about every day.
"We definitely would like to focus on baseball, and I think we've done a pretty good job of that this year. Everybody wants it to be settled. I just want to hear that it's over, that we have a solution, whatever that may be."