3. An Opening Day gem and home run
If we look back at what started the Los Angeles Dodgers’ seven-year playoff streak most fans would link it to Yasiel Puig. Puig’s arrival to the Dodgers in 2013 gave them the spark they needed to go on an unprecedented run to the National League West title.
However, if we really think about it, the seven-year playoff run came with Kershaw’s second most impressive regular-season performance of his career. In the first game of the Dodgers’ season, in front of 50,000 fans that had no idea what would be coming in the next seven years, Kershaw single-handily won the game for the Dodgers.
Not only did Kershaw throw a complete-game shutout with seven strikeouts, but he also hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. The solo home run would have been enough to give the Dodgers the win, but after seeing the pitcher go yard, the offense was able to muster three more runs to give Kershaw a four-run cushion.
Kershaw was only 25 years old and was already a Cy Young winner but this shutout and home runs started one of the most dominant five-year primes in MLB history. While Kershaw only won two Cy Youngs in those five years, he was an MVP and could have easily won it all five years, if not for injury or other pitchers having fantastic seasons.
From 2013 to 2017, Kershaw had a 1.95 ERA. He had an ERA under two in a span of just under 1,000 innings (991.0 IP). Kershaw’s highest ERA in that span was 2.31.