Clayton Kershaw has the aura of the unhittable ace whose “stuff” resides in some magical realm of Valhalla where all talent, hard work and good fortune has coalesced into a spirit force that melts the lesser hitters of the league into a bubbling goo and Kershaw steps over them like I step over the bird crap that fell and solidified on my back step.
Until he met the baseball juggernaut out of America’s gateway to the lower left-hand quadrant of the Gulf of Mexico, Oil City USA: the Astros of Houston, Texas. Martinez, Lowrie, Altuve: the ace-breakers.
Kershaw may as well have been late-career Chan Ho Park last night in Los Angeles, as the Astros lit him up for a monstrous three runs over 7 innings. Well, it feels monstrous, anyway, and for the big shot to come from J.D. Martinez, who only days before tattooing a Kershaw pitch into the left field seats looked every bit the befuddled, out-gunned hitter. That was a good feeling, because let’s face it Astros fans we’re watching with the flutter in the pits of stomachs that this could be the game that we wake up from this very pleasant dream of .500 baseball.
But here is the thing about this team: they don’t care. Why should they? There are no expectations to fail to meet, few cagy veterans around to dictate some dusty brand of faux respect or traditionalism. The young guys don’t have to raise their voice above a din. This place is silent; the only voice is their own. If the bullpen naming itself The Regulators means anything, it means that there’s nobody around to tell them that they aren’t supposed to name themselves anything.
Sidenote: I’ve consulted my 175-year-old soothsaying tortoise Roy Hofheinz Junior Junior and he suggests that a healthy Matt Kemp would have had zero impact on a two-run differential game, so we can take that knowledge of the Ancients forward into today’s match-up.
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