The Los Angeles Dodgers methodically mapped out Clayton Kershaw’s return from a mild disc herniation after it became evident he would not make a quick recovery. But all the while Kershaw and the team remained mum on the particulars.
What was evident is by activating Kershaw for a Sept. 9 start against the Miami Marlins, it aligned the three-time Cy Young Award winner to twice face the San Francisco Giants during the final weeks of the regular season.
So, Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner locked horns Monday night for the third time in 2016. It was the Giants’ second visit to Dodger Stadium in the past month.
But for Kershaw, after a pair of tune-up starts, it was his first time pitching in a marquee game since June 20 when he faced the Washington Nationals.
“That was incredible, that was such a fun game to be a part of,” Kershaw said after the Dodgers’ walk-off victory.
After throwing five shutout innings and holding the New York Yankees to just one hit in his previous start, Kershaw wasn’t overly sharp Monday. “My stuff was a lot better in New York than it was [Monday],” he said.
“But getting the pitch count back up, making sure my body bounces back, I’ve been feeling good. So, that’s all positive. I was able to grind through this one a little bit, which was good.”
While Kershaw wasn’t his dominant self, fact of the matter is he allowed just one run (unearned) and had seven strikeouts over six innings of work. His slider misfired at times, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was pleased with his ace.
“This is his third start after two-and-a-half months of being off. For him to go six and give up one unearned run, and still trying to figure things out, I like where he’s headed,” Roberts said.
Kershaw lamented his slider that resulted in the wild pitch in the third inning that allowed Eduardo Nunez to score from third base and complete his interesting trek around the bases. However, that wasn’t what resonated most with Kershaw.
“The fourth inning is really what killed me, with the 20-something pitches, or whatever it was,” he said. “I had a couple 3-2 counts, walking a guy, so that’s what got the pitch count higher than maybe what it could have been.”
The walk was just Kershaw’s 10th of the season. His strikeout-to-walk ratio remains in good standing, as Kershaw has punched out 162 batters. Beyond extending their division to lead to six games, the Dodgers came away Monday with their ace inching closer to playoff form.
“Physically, I feel good. No complaints,” Kershaw said. “Arm feels good, back is fine, so maybe it’s just one of those days where you don’t have your good stuff.”