Dodger fans, take solace: we have Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. If Tuesday and Wednesday are any indication, they're the best 1-2 punch in baseball. And should only be getting better.
One night after Kershaw came withing one out of going the distance for a shutout, Greinke made his first start in a month and beat the Nationals, surrendering one run in 5 1/3 innings. Considering the guy was supposed to be out anywhere between 3-4 more weeks, I'd say this is an encouraging sign.
It's made even more encouraging by the fact that the Dodgers scored five runs in these two games, but still won. Encouraging indeed.
Let's start with Kershaw. Right now he's 4-2 with a 1.40 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 67 K's in 64 1/3 innings. Fantastic numbers for the 2011 Cy Young winner, and runner-up last season. But the scary thing is, he's actually a notoriously better second half pitcher. In his career, he's had a 2.92 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in the first half, and those numbers go down to 2.42 and 1.09 in the second.
Currently he's first in the NL in innings and ERA, second in strikeouts, and third in ERA. So it's hard to imagine him actually getting better than that. But then again, this is Clayton Kershaw. Where his ceiling is, we have no idea. I think back to LeBron James when he won this year's MVP award, and he admitted he has no idea how good he can get. That's what I think about Kershaw. He's 25, which isn't even his prime years yet. With the way he's perfected his breaking and off-speed stuff, he truly is on the pace to be one of the greatest of all-time.
Coming out of Spring Training, the hope was that Kershaw and Greinke would provide a dominating 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, but Greinke's elbow issues prevented that from happening. Now, everything is back on track. He's nowhere near 100% yet, but still held a good team like the Nationals in check to win a close game. And we all know that when you pitch for the Dodgers, you better be able to pitch well in close games, or you stand no chance of getting a win.
To be fair, the Nationals' lineup did not feature the names of Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth because of injuries, and they obviously are two big bats. It's still a great start, however, no matter who was and wasn't playing. To give your team a boost like that when you could've easily rested longer or made another rehab appearance goes to show how committed to winning this guy is. Major props to him.
The Dodgers' offense will continue to be an issue going forward, especially with Hanley Ramirez banged up, among many other people. Matt Kemp has a 14-game hitting streak, but no homers or much power to show for it. Andre Ethier looks a little better in recent days, but again, there's no power. Carl Crawford has slowed down after a red hot start. Adrian Gonalez is swinging very well, but there's that neck problem that seems to be lingering.
In other words, don't expect the offense to suddenly start to sizzle. Still, if you're an opposing manager and you have to face Kershaw and Greinke in the same series, you're very worried. Both have a history of getting stronger as the season progresses, and both will make life miserable for hitters under the hot sun of Dodger Stadium this summer.
And when you have two aces at the top, anything's possible.