Los Angeles Dodgers' starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Photo by Jim Ruymen | License Photo
NEW YORK -- Omaha's loss Saturday night will be a big win for anyone who likes watching two of the best pitchers in baseball face off against one another.
Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to make a surprising return to the major league rotation Saturday night, when the Dodgers visit the New York Mets in the middle game of a three-game series at Citi Field.
The Dodgers won the opener 5-2 on Friday night when Cody Bellinger's sixth-inning grand slam snapped a scoreless pitcher's duel between Los Angeles left-hander Alex Wood and Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler.
There will likely be more zeroes on the board Saturday when Kershaw (1-4, 2.76 ERA) may not even be the best pitcher to take the Citi Field mound. The Hall of Fame-bound southpaw, who hasn't pitched this month because of a lower back strain, will be opposed by the hottest pitcher in baseball, Mets ace Jacob deGrom (5-2, 1.51 ERA).
The Mets finally provided deGrom some run support in his most recent start on Monday when he picked up a long-awaited win after allowing two runs (one earned) in eight innings of a 12-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
DeGrom lowered his major league-leading ERA to 1.51 in the win. Since 2000, only Randy Johnson (1.47 ERA in 2000) has produced a lower ERA through 15 starts.
DeGrom has a 0.90 ERA in his last 11 starts, during which he has only gone 3-2 while the Mets have gone 3-8. New York scored 16 runs while deGrom was on the mound in his 10 starts before Monday.
"I watched (Corey) Kluber have about a 1.40 ERA for like 12 or 13 starts at the end of one season to win a Cy Young," said Mets manager Mickey Callaway, who was the pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians when Kluber locked up the American League Cy Young Award by posting a 1.42 ERA in his final 12 starts last season.
"But this is pretty special. You don't see this often."
Nor do matchups like Kershaw-deGrom happen very often. The clash Saturday night will mark their first regular-season matchup and the second time they've opposed one another.
DeGrom picked up the win in the decisive Game 5 of the 2015 National League Division Series when he tossed seven scoreless innings in the Mets' 3-1 win over the Dodgers and Kershaw, who pitched on three days' rest and took the loss after giving up all three runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Kershaw was originally scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Oklahoma City against Omaha, but with an uncertain weather forecast in Nebraska, the Dodgers decided to take their chances by having him pitch for the big league team in New York, where scattered thunderstorms are expected.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts hinted the famously competitive Kershaw did his share of talking his way out of the rehab start.
"He did play a little weatherman, so with weather.com and Clayton, we were pretty abreast with the weather in Omaha," Roberts said with a grin Friday afternoon.
Roberts said the Dodgers will proceed carefully with Kershaw, who has made as many trips to the disabled list as to a big league mound since May. Kershaw was sidelined from May 2 through May 30 because of biceps tendinitis.
Kershaw was activated May 31, when he didn't factor into the decision after pitching through a tight back while allowing one run in five innings of the Dodgers' 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. Los Angeles placed Kershaw back on the disabled list the next day.
"We don't know how much he's going to pitch," Roberts said. "I don't want to put a limit on him. Obviously, there is a limitation with Clayton, and I'll make that decision."
Both pitchers will have a unique, opponent-specific streak on the line Saturday
DeGrom is 0-3 with a 3.26 ERA in six career regular-season starts against the Dodgers. He has beaten every other team he has faced more than once.
Kershaw is 8-0 with a 1.84 ERA in 12 regular-season starts against the Mets. He is undefeated against eight other teams but has beaten only one of those squads, the Atlanta Braves, more than twice.