Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw allowed three runs on five hits in just 1 2/3 innings Friday night (LAD 8, MIL 6) before meeting with Dodgers staff — including athletic trainers — and leaving the game with an injury. A few innings later, the Dodgers announced Kershaw departed because of left forearm discomfort.
Here’s video of the mound visit:
Kershaw threw 42 pitches and only retired five of the 10 batters he faced. His fastball velocity was in line with his season average, but something was certainly wrong. He didn’t pitch at all from July 3 to Sept. 13 due to a forearm/elbow injury, and was strong in his first two outings after his return. Kershaw surrendered four runs in 4 1/3 innings to a bad Diamondbacks team last time out.
“It’s a tough blow, obviously,” Kershaw told reporters, including MLB.com’s Juan Toribio. “Kinda the same thing I’ve been dealing with and just got bad enough to where I couldn’t keep going tonight. Haven’t quite wrapped my head around that yet. The biggest thing was I just wanted to be a part of this team through October. That’s the hardest part for me right now, just knowing that chances are that it’s not looking good for October right now. … I’m excited for these guys to do what they’re gonna do in October.”
The Dodgers have already clinched a postseason spot and they remain alive in the NL West race, though the Giants will clinch the division title with their next win or the next Dodgers loss. Los Angeles has won eight straight NL West titles, a run that started the year Kershaw won the second of his three Cy Young awards.
“Where we’re at in the schedule and what’s left of the season, just not too optimistic right now,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told Toribio when asked about Kershaw’s postseason availability. “I don’t really know specifics. But he couldn’t keep pitching, so that’s pretty telling.”
According to SportsLine, losing Kershaw for the postseason drops the club’s odds of winning the National League pennant from 22.0 percent to 20.9 percent, and their odds of winning the World Series from 15.0 percent to 14.1 percent. That’s a significant hit because Kershaw is a significant player. When healthy, he is a difference-making ace.
Should Kershaw indeed miss at least the start of the postseason, the Dodgers’ four-man rotation likely sets up like so (assuming they are the top NL wild card):
Tony Gonsolin is the presumed favorite to be the Dodgers’ No. 4 starter in the postseason, though Los Angeles could also go with a bullpen game. They’ve employed bullpen games throughout the season, and because there’s an off day between Games 4 and 5 of the NLDS, the Dodgers could empty their ‘pen in Game 4 knowing the rest day is coming.
As for Kershaw personally, his 2021 regular season is now over. He ends it with a 3.55 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 144 strikeouts against 21 walks in 121 2/3 innings. He was excellent in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, too.
Kershaw is a free agent after the season. He’s not going to ever be Prime Kershaw again, but he can still be a damn good frontline pitcher when he’s healthy. Note the numbers above. Of course, he’s dealt with back injuries a few years and the forearm injury this year is concerning as well. Forearm issues are a common precursor to elbow ligament injuries and Tommy John surgery.
“My future is going to take care of itself,” Kershaw told Toribio. “I’m not really worried about that right now. I really wanted to be a part of the moment right now and I wanted to be with this group through October. That was my only focus this whole year once I got hurt, it was to come back and make it up for this month. As far as anything else goes, I haven’t wrapped my head around it and I don’t plan to anytime soon.”
In the near-term, obviously the Dodgers would like him back on the mound as soon as possible.