When Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg take the mound in Los Angeles tonight (10 ET on ESPN), it will be the second time in MLB history that opposing starting pitchers both entered a game with at least 10 wins and one or fewer losses, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other time was on June 22, 1900, when the Dodgers’ Joe McGinnity faced the Phillies’ Bill Bernhard in Philadelphia (both were 12-1).
Strasburg has pitched four times against the Dodgers but never against Kershaw. He is 1-0 and has allowed five earned runs in 26⅓ innings pitched (1.71 ERA), with 25 strikeouts and three walks.
Kershaw, meanwhile, is 9-2 with a 2.09 ERA in 13 games against the Nationals (12 starts). But that doesn’t tell the full story. Kershaw has won seven straight starts against the Nationals. He’s allowed one run in 31 innings in his past four starts against them.
Two of the best:
Kershaw and Strasburg rank first and second in strikeouts per nine innings pitched over the past two seasons. This season, Kershaw has thrown a league-high 133 strikeouts with just seven walks, making his strikeout-to-walk ratio 19.0. If that holds for the season, it would shatter Phil Hughes‘ MLB record of 11.6 set in 2014.
Kershaw and Strasburg both dominate with their curveballs.
Since Strasburg’s debut in 2010, Kershaw is second in strikeout percentage on plate appearances ending with a curveball at 53.9 percent. Strasburg is fourth at 47.5 percent during that span.
They are effective with their curveballs in very different ways. Strasburg throws his for strikes almost 69 percent of the time. Kershaw almost doubles Strasburg in swing-and-misses with his curveball.
On the offensive side, the Dodgers have struggled lately. They have only five players with more than five home runs this season. They rank 29th in batting average (.232) and 28th in slugging percentage (.377).
But Corey Seager and Trayce Thompson have been a bright spots on offense. Seager has six home runs already in June, and his 15 home runs on the season ranks second among shortstops. He has 35 extra-base hits a .494 slugging percentage (fourth among shortstops).
Thompson has hit 11 home runs in 162 at-bats. That rate of a home run every 14.7 at-bats is 14th-best in the majors (minimum 150 at-bats). Thompson is also one of 66 players with 11 home runs this season. Only the Cardinals’ Brandon Moss (167) has needed fewer at-bats than Thompson (162).
The Nationals score 41.4 percent of their runs via the home run (132 of 319 runs), 10th most in baseball.
However, their leading home run hitter, Bryce Harper, has struggled lately. On April 26, he was hitting .328 and slugging .844 with nine home runs and nine strikeouts. But in his past 46 games he’s 33-for-145 with 36 strikeouts and eight extra-base hits.
Harper is on pace to walk 137 times this season if he plays in each of the Nationals’ final 94 games. Since 2000, the only players to walk 138 times or more in one season are Barry Bonds four times (including a record 232 times in 2004), and Joey Votto, who walked 143 times last season.
The Nationals’ hottest hitter has been Daniel Murphy, who leads the league with a .361 batting average. He whiffs on just 12 percent of his swings, the seventh-lowest rate in the majors.