MINNEAPOLIS - Dave Roberts had some explaining to do after the L.A. Dodgers beat the Minnesota Twins 7-0 on Wednesday to sweep a two-game series at Target Field.
Clayton Kershaw, making his season debut, had a perfect game going through seven innings. Kershaw didn't get the chance to finish what he started. He recorded 21 consecutive outs, while striking out 13 Twins’ hitters. Yet when he came off the mound after the bottom of the seventh, it was to high-fives and handshakes in the dugout. Roberts was pulling him, despite a perfect game on the line.
Kershaw then put on a jacket, and headed into the clubhouse. Six outs away from what would’ve been the 24th perfect game in Major League Baseball history, Roberts didn’t give Kershaw the chance to at least try to finish it off. ESPN Senior Baseball Writer Jeff Passan clearly didn't agree with Roberts' decision.
Kershaw told reporters after the game "It was the right decision" to remove him from the game.
"Those are individual things. Those are selfish goals. We're trying to win, that's really all we're here for. As much as I would've wanted to do it, I've thrown 75 pitches in a sim game. I hadn't done six innings, let alone seven," Kershaw told Kirsten Swanson of SportsNet L.A. after the game.
His catcher, Austin Barnes, said the same.
"Later in the season when he's a little more built up, i think he goes out there. 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," Barnes said.
It raises one of the most popular questions in baseball, especially early in a season: Do you let a pitcher try to chase history, or do what you can to prevent injury down the road? Roberts will take criticism, but there might be a method to his madness.
Due to the lockout between MLB and players over its labor agreement, teams had a shortened spring training. Starting pitchers didn’t get fully stretched out, each have their own pitch counts. Through four games, not one Twins’ starter went more than five innings.
Kershaw’s perfect game ended after seven innings, and Twins’ catcher Gary Sanchez promptly ended the Dodgers’ perfect game and/or no-hit bid with a one-out single in the eighth inning.
The Dodgers won the game 7-0, claiming a two-game sweep over the Twins.