Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw was removed from a perfect game bid on Wednesday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins. Kershaw, in his season debut, struck out 13 batters through seven perfect frames. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts then removed Kershaw to begin the eighth inning, inserting lefty reliever Alex Vesia. Vesia subsequently surrendered a single to Gary Sánchez, dashing any hopes Los Angeles had of making history.
Kershaw's pitch count was at 80 upon his removal. The truncated spring owed to the owner-imposed lockout had left him stretched out to around 75 pitches. Roberts, for better or worse, opted to err on the side of caution with his longtime staff anchor. Roberts' battery, of Kershaw and catcher Austin Barnes, agreed with the decision.
"As much as I would have wanted to do it, I've thrown 75 pitches in a sim game," Kershaw told reporters. "I would have loved to stay, but bigger things."
"Later in the season, when he's a little more built up, I think he goes out there," Barnes said to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. "But I think that's the right call, taking him out there. It was the right move, for sure. I think he was getting a little tired."
Kershaw generated 20 whiffs on the afternoon overall, with 17 of those coming against his slider, his primary pitch in the outing. He averaged 89.9 mph with his fastball, down about 0.7 mph from last year, though it's likely that the cold conditions in Minnesota played a role in that number.
The Dodgers were leading by a 6-0 score entering the eighth thanks to some timely offense. Cody Bellinger, Austin Barnes, and Gavin Lux all connected for solo home runs in the eighth, extending Los Angeles' lead from 3-0 to 6-0.
The only perfect game in Dodgers history was thrown by Sandy Koufax in September 1965. Koufax, who struck out 14 members of the Chicago Cubs, received just enough offense from his lineup on that fateful day: the Dodgers finished with one run on a pair of baserunners; neither team had a hit through the seventh inning.
The Dodgers franchise has thrown 26 no-hitters total prior to Wednesday. The most recent came in May 2018, when four pitchers combined to blank the San Diego Padres in a game that was played in Mexico. Kershaw himself had the last individual no-no in Dodgers history. He accomplished the feat in June 2014 against the Colorado Rockies, just weeks after teammate Josh Beckett had delivered his own versus the Philadelphia Phillies.
Wednesday's start marked Kershaw's first meaningful appearance since late last season. He missed the entirety of the Dodgers' postseason run because of forearm and elbow discomfort. Kershaw didn't require surgery, however, and he returned to Los Angeles on a one-year pact worth $17 million after the lockout was lifted in March.