Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, whom the Tigers won't face in their two-game series, is at 36 consecutive scoreless innings and counting. (Ed Zurga / Getty Images)
Detroit — The Tigers aren’t shedding any tears about missing him.
“Thank God!” Torii Hunter said.
But you better believe Tigers fans wanted a glimpse of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw this week. And he could’ve started Wednesday’s game on regular rest.
No dice, the team announced late last week.
So there goes any hope of a Kershaw-Max Scherzer showdown, which would’ve been a meeting of the reigning Cy Young winners.
“It’s still a good pitching matchup,” Kershaw said Tuesday at Comerica Park.
He’s right. Zack Greinke will go for the Dodgers on Wednesday. No slouch there.
But he can’t match the roll Kershaw is on. The scruffy left-hander is evoking memories of another great Dodgers lefty, Sandy Koufax, while at 36 consecutive scoreless innings and counting. It’s a streak that includes one of the most dominant no-hitters of all time.
He’s on a roll of historic proportions. Kershaw hasn’t allowed a run since June 13, hasn’t allowed two since June 2 and hasn’t allowed three since May 28.
All told, he’s having an even better season than when he won his two Cy Youngs, in 2011 and 2013.
Not that Kershaw is one to gloat.
“Our team’s playing really well, and so I’m just trying to contribute every fifth day,” he said. “It seems like every time I’ve been pitching, I’ve been getting tons of runs. So you really just go out there with the confidence that your team is gonna have your back.
“Just go out there and throw strikes and see what happens.”
What’s happened for Kershaw is this: A no-hitter June 18, eight innings of scoreless ball June 24, seven innings of scoreless ball June 29 and eighth innings of scoreless ball July 4.
In two of those last three outings, he probably could’ve gone the distance, too, but the Dodgers are taking it easy with him, after he missed all of April with a back injury.
That hasn’t slowed Kershaw. He’s still 10-2 with a 1.85 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 87.1 innings, and the easy favorite to start for the National League in the All-Star Game on July 15 in Minneapolis.
“He’s one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever had,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who finished his playing career with the Dodgers in 2009 and ’10 — the first full seasons of Kershaw’s career. “That would be as a person, in the clubhouse and on the field.
“He was 20 when I first met him. He’s always been highly competitive, and highly focused.”
Kershaw is 26 now but still has fond memories of his time working with Ausmus.
The two clicked immediately, probably, Ausmus theorized, because of their similar senses of humors.
“There aren’t many people,” said Ausmus, “who don’t get along with him.”
While Kershaw hasn’t pitched in Detroit since his rookie year, in 2008, he’s not unfamiliar with making the trip. He was here in the fall of 2012, during the World Series, to accept the Roberto Clemente Award for his work off the field. Clayton and his wife Ellen Kershaw run an orphanage in Zambia.
So, next time you ask yourself why players like Kershaw need all that money — in January, he signed a seven-year, $215 million contract extension — well, now you know.
Kershaw also has made the trip to Detroit during the NFL season to watch his good buddy and former high-school classmate, Matthew Stafford, play quarterback for the Lions.
They both attended Highland Park High School in Texas, and both went on to become their team’s No. 1 draft picks — Kershaw seventh overall to the Dodgers in 2006 out of high school, and Stafford No. 1 overall to the Lions in 2009 out of the University of Georgia.
Stafford dabbled in baseball in high school, while Kershaw actually was Stafford’s center in football. They still stay in close touch, and hang out when they can, though their offseasons are way different.
“I’ve seen him a few times. I came up here once, and then when he played the Cowboys, I watched him back home some,” Kershaw said. “It’s fun rooting for Matthew. You always want him to do well.”
No question, Stafford, in turn, will be paying attention to Thursday night’s Dodgers game against the Padres. That’s when Kershaw again puts his scoreless streak on the line.
It's just a day later than what Tigers fans — not the Tigers, themselves — were hoping for.
“I’m very excited that I’m not” facing Kershaw, said Hunter, who faced him all too often during his days with the Angels.