Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw gets a standing ovation by fans after his dominating… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
The game had three innings to go, but Clayton Kershaw was done. In his final tuneup for the playoffs, he had pitched six shutout innings, and he was about to retreat to the clubhouse.
The Dodgers would have none of it. The video board promptly flashed a statistical comparison to Sandy Koufax, the crowd erupted in applause, and Juan Uribe pushed Kershaw up the dugout steps and toward the field. Kershaw took in the standing ovation, and headed inside, and into October.
Kershaw wrapped his Cy Young campaign with a flourish Friday night, pitching six shutout innings to lead the Dodgers to an 11-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies. His next start: Game 1 of the National League division series Thursday, in either Atlanta or St. Louis.
"Now is the time I'm going to start thinking about it," Kershaw said. "It's all about the playoffs. It's all about Game 1 for me."
Let that not obscure a spectacular regular season. Kershaw finished with a 16-9 record and a 1.83 earned-run average — and that with the worst run support of any Dodgers starter. In his 33 starts, he gave up zero or one earned run 19 times.
"It's been an amazing year," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. "If we would have put up some runs, he might have won 25 or 26 games."
Kershaw became the first pitcher since Greg Maddux (1993-95) to lead the major leagues in ERA for three consecutive seasons.
"I don't want to take that lightly," Kershaw said. "That is a huge honor. There will be time to look back at everything. But now is definitely not that time."
Kershaw became the first starter to finish with an ERA below 2.00 since Roger Clemens in 2005, and the first Dodger to do so since Koufax did it in 1963, 1964 and 1966.
Koufax, who won the Cy Young Award in 1963, '65 and '66, is the only Dodger to win the award multiple times. Kershaw won the award in 2011 and finished second last year.
On a raucous night at Dodger Stadium, the home team had one bit of worry, when Yasiel Puig left the game after fouling a ball off his left foot. The Dodgers sent him for X-rays, which were negative, and listed him as day-to-day.
Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis all homered for the Dodgers. For Crawford, the home run was his first since May 6.
Gonzalez hit the 100-RBI mark for the sixth time in seven years. He drove in 99 runs the other year.
The postseason is a little bit of a blemish on Kershaw's record, at least so far. He has a 5.87 ERA in five postseason appearances, two of them starts.
Of course, in his last appearance, he was 21, and a middle reliever working two innings between George Sherrill and Hong-Chih Kuo in 2009 against the Phillies. Kershaw has blossomed since then, and this is his chance to shine.
"Nobody remembers second place, who won the American League or who won the National League," Kershaw said. "Getting to the playoffs is nice. It's definitely a huge accomplishment.
"At the end of the day, unless you win the whole thing, no one remembers. That's what you play for."
On Friday afternoon, Ellis came across a tweet from Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons, who noted that the Braves and Cardinals are fighting for the best record in the NL.
The winner would get what Gammons whimsically dubbed "the Kershaw Bowl." The loser gets Kershaw himself, twice in the best-of-five division series.
Ellis, the Dodgers' catcher, smiled. To have home-field advantage in the first round would be good. To have Kershaw is better.
"I'm a little biased," Ellis said, "but I think I have the best seat, catching the best pitcher in baseball."
Hey, Game 1, here he comes.