While writing for the New York Post in 1990, I debuted a stat for starting pitchers called “ERA Needed to Win,” which took runs of support from a pitcher’s offense and subtracted runs allowed by relief pitchers and unearned runs allowed by the defense behind him. This translated into a “chance to win game.” When Clayton Kershaw stepped to the plate in the eighth inning his “chance to win game” was theoretically 0% since the Dodgers had scored no runs for him.
Luckily Kershaw had also shut out the hated rival Giants to give every indication he may lead the league in ERA again this season, and he decided to take matters into his own hands when he drilled his first career home run to spur the Dodgers victory.
Los Angeles may have seen nothing like it since the mid-1960s, when one of the rare power hitting pitchers, Don Drysdale, hit a homer in 1965 and perhaps the most dominant lefty ever in Sandy Koufax threw the first Opening Day shutout in Dodger Stadium in 1964. Koufax threw out the opening pitch Monday. One thing Kershaw may accomplish that Koufax and Drysdale could not even dream about is a potential $200 million contract after this season.
Drysdale and Koufax jointly held out for higher salaries before the 1966 season, finally being awarded salaries of $115,000 and $125,000, respectively. While some may argue the money has swung too far in the players’ direction with the possibility of the $200 million contract, in the mid-1960s it was later revealed the Dodgers were already netting tens of millions of dollars when they first refused to up Drysdale’s salary.
For the AP account of the game, including accounts of how rare the opening day homer, shutout combination has been in baseball history click here.