NEW YORK -- He wasn't able to catch Zack Greinke, not in one game. But maybe on one perfect night at Citi Field, Clayton Kershaw could outdo his Los Angeles Dodgers teammate.
For inning after inning this month, neither one of them has allowed a run. Thursday against the New York Mets, inning after inning went by, and Kershaw didn't allow a hit.
He was perfect for six innings and very, very good for nine, in a 3-0 win that extended his own scoreless streak to 29 innings. Kershaw ended up allowing three singles and no other baserunners, and along the way he had his teammates convinced they were going to be part of history.
"Oh yeah, definitely," catcher Yasmani Grandal said. "I thought we were going to see a perfect game. The way he was throwing and the way they were swinging, you could really tell that he was on."
What the Dodgers have seen from Kershaw and Greinke in July has been a near-perfect month. Kershaw has allowed one run in 33 innings, with two walks and 45 strikeouts. Greinke has allowed no runs in 23 innings, with one walk and 23 strikeouts.
"Two completely different pitchers," Grandal said. "At the same time, they do the same thing."
Kershaw insists it's not a competition, saying Thursday, "I don't compete against my teammates."
He does compete against the opposing hitters, and he's doing it now about as well as he has at any point in his brilliant career. The July numbers are phenomenal, but in Kershaw's past three starts, he has pitched 26 scoreless innings with no walks and 38 strikeouts.
"I don't know anything I'm doing better," he said. "I just feel better."
He felt great Thursday and wasn't even stressing about the slider that Curtis Granderson lined into right field to start the seventh inning, ending the perfect-game bid. It was a good pitch, Kershaw said, and Grandal agreed, although the catcher wished it had been a little outside the zone.
"If it's off the plate, it's a swing and miss," he said.
Kershaw said it wasn't until the seventh that he really started thinking perfect game.
"It didn't last very long," he said.
It did have that feel. Kershaw had come close before, notably in his 2014 no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies, when the only baserunner reached on a Hanley Ramirez error -- also in the seventh inning.
"There's a lot of luck that has to happen for a perfect game," Kershaw said.
What Kershaw and Greinke have done lately has little to do with luck. The two have been brilliant and have kept the Dodgers in first place at a time when the rest of the rotation is something of a mess.
Greinke will miss his scheduled start Friday; he flew back to Los Angeles to be with his wife when she delivers the couple's first child. Without him and without many other options, the Dodgers are going to start Ian Thomas, a 28-year-old left-hander they picked up in the Alberto Callaspo trade with the Atlanta Braves in May.
Thomas has never started a major league game. His career numbers in relief -- 11 earned runs in 21 innings, with 19 hits and 14 walks -- aren't exactly inspiring.
Greinke may return to New York in time to start Saturday night, or it could be Zach Lee coming up from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Then on Sunday, it could be Greinke or Brett Anderson, who left his last start with an Achilles problem but has recovered well.
At some point, the Dodgers will no doubt trade for a pitcher, perhaps for another ace along the lines of Kershaw and Greinke. And perhaps whoever they get will be inspired by the competition between the two aces.
Grandal said he first noticed it at the end of spring training, after he caught Greinke in a start in San Antonio.
"He had a good outing and he told me, 'Kershaw better watch out, I'm coming after him,'" Grandal said. "Now, somebody has a good outing, the other guy wants to have a better outing."
Maybe Kershaw wouldn't put it the same way, but that's the way it has been for a month now.
Inning after inning, Greinke doesn't give up any runs. But on a near-perfect Thursday night at Citi Field, inning after inning, Kershaw didn't give up any hits.