LOS ANGELES -- On the scoreboard in right field, it was 10:08 p.m. in the City of Angels. And a crowd of 46,069 had just sat in to see the best pitcher in baseball throw the first no-hitter of his career.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, who reminds us of Sandy Koufax with every flash of greatness, did it with a flurry. He struck out the Colorado Rockies' final batter, Corey Dickerson, in the Dodgers' 8-0 win. He struck out 15, setting a career high. So, when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record book, that "K" stood out even more than the E-R-S-H-A-W.
Kershaw, the most intense of competitors, threw his arms into the sky. He dropped his glove. He fell into the embrace of his catcher, A.J. Ellis.
He allowed himself a rare smile, and an awfully wide smile, when Ellis handed him the game ball. Kershaw tucked it into his back pocket, safe among the buckets of Gatorade and dozens of soap bubbles that his giddy teammates poured over his head.
"I'll remember this for the rest of my life," Kershaw said.
Kershaw is so respected that his teammates lined up in front of the dugout to listen to his postgame interview. For the first time in Los Angeles history, the Dodgers have two no-hitters in the same season, following Josh Beckett's gem in May.
"Beckett told me he was going to teach me to do that," Kershaw said.
The last time any team had two no-hitters in the same season? The Chicago Cubs, in 1972. The last time the Dodgers did it? In Brooklyn, in 1956, when Carl Erskine and Sal Maglie did it.
Kershaw was utterly dominant. The Rockies came close to a hit only once.
He was one blemish from perfection. The blemish was not his own.
He had retired the first 18 batters. Dickerson led off the seventh inning with a ground ball to shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
Ramirez charged the slowly hit ball. He had more time than he realized, did not steady himself before making a throw. The throw sailed wide for an error, and Kershaw had lost the perfect game.
Ramirez has the most errors in baseball since 2006, according to MLB Network. Manager Don Mattingly had not removed him for a defensive replacement in the seventh, with an 8-0 lead, but did replace him with Carlos Triunfel in the eighth inning. Ramirez did not bat in the bottom of the seventh inning.
After the error, Kershaw appeared to offer Ramirez an encouraging word. After the inning, television cameras caught Ramirez kicking a cup in the dugout, visibly upset.
The perfect game was gone. One batter later, the perfect game nearly was.
Troy Tulowitzki, with the highest batting average in the major leagues, hammered a ground ball, hard down the third base line. Miguel Rojas, a career minor leaguer promoted only because of injuries, made a spectacular play to field the wicked hopper behind the bag. He threw a one-hopper to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who made an adept scoop.
If Gonzalez had not done so, the no-hitter might still have been intact -- an error could have been charged to Rojas -- but Kershaw would have lost his shutout. Dickerson, who had taken second base on Ramirez's error and third on a subsequent ground ball, would have scored.
In 11 days, the National League West has turned from a rout into a race.
The Dodgers are four games out of first place. They are the big blue object looming in the rearview mirror of the San Francisco Giants.
The Dodgers were 91/2 games out of first place June 8.
Last season, the Dodgers were 91/2 games out of first place June 22. They moved into first place July 22.
After three innings, the budding no-hit bid offered the only suspense.
The Dodgers scored two runs in the first inning and five in the third, three on a double by Rojas, who quadrupled his career run-batted-in total on that one hit.
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