Jimmy Nelson’s first professional at bat was in 2012. No one expected a damn thing., He’s a pitcher after all. And after 61 minor league at bats between 2012 and 2014, still no base hits and no one really cared. He earned a promotion to the big leagues because of a 1.46 ERA and 114 k’s in 111 innings.
And yet, Nelson already has 3 base hits as a major leaguer including a double Sunday afternoon off baseball’s best pitcher-Clayton Kershaw. Weird, improbable, ironic, bizarre, lucky? Probably all of the above, but more importantly, a runner in scoring position with nobody out. Game tied 1-1.
Kershaw has boyish surfer looks, a smile that seems to appreciate his status as one of the all time greats and one of the richest too, but when it comes to pitching, he’s a bit Svengali in the way he messes with a batter’s mind. He stands out there looking like just another southpaw. The pitches arrive at 91 or 92 mph, nothing out of the ordinary; almost like he’s giving you a chance.
He throws strikes, paints the corners, but he’s still less than magic, for a little while anyway. But something strange always happens. Kershaw unleashes a round house 12-6 curve ball that turns batters into cartoons. Maybe he does it the second or third time through the batting order. I don’t know for sure, but he definitely does it. He also starts changing speeds.
On Sunday Kershaw and all of the Dodgers were rested. They arrived in Milwaukee early Friday morning after a jet eye flight from LA. They were zonked out. They lost Friday night and were probably still groggy on Saturday. That’s the way it goes with circadian rhythms. The third day returns the body to the norm or so it seems.
Or maybe the science is a Kershaw phobia manifesting itself. Either way, the Brewers had their chances Sunday afternoon. Carlos Gomez walked to lead off the game; stole second and scored on Ryan Braun’s line drive single to left field.
Jimmy Nelson’s line drive double down the right field line led off the third inning. One big problem. Nelson has no instincts when running bases. How could he? He’s never on base. Gomez hit a one hopper to the shortstop and Nelson was a stranded and soon a dead duck; tagged out. Never make the first out of an inning at third base. Oh well.
At least Gomez was on first base. He’s more than fast. He’s efficient; 24 steals in 30 attempts including one in the first inning. Kershaw slide stepped him; caught Gomez off guard and picked him off first base. Jonathan Lucroy then hits a towering fly ball to deep left field, so high that we have time to watch as it curves inches to the left of the pole; a foul ball. On the next pitch, he hits a deep fly to the warning track in right field. Inning over.
In the 4th inning, Braun singled, advanced to second on spiked curve wild pitch by Kershaw and tried to advance to third on another spiked curve, but got thrown out. Never make the first out of an inning at third base. Oh well.
In the fifth inning, Rickie Weeks leads off with a bloop double; advances to third on a Mark Reynolds ground out. Jean Segura attempts a suicide squeeze but fouls off Kershaw’s pitch. Segura tries again, but pops it up in front of home plate and in comes Kershaw; down goes Kershaw; rolling in the grass and dirt and catching the ball and throwing to third and doubling off Weeks.
The Dodgers had the infield in on the play. They were leading 2-1 at the time and knew it was more than enough for Kershaw. Get out of the fifth inning with a lead and the game is probably over and it was. The Dodgers didn’t exactly hit Jimmy Nelson hard, but they hit him alright; 8 hits in 6 innings; good for 2 runs.
Final score; Dodgers 5, Brewers 1. The Brewers are 65-53.