As he warmed up to pitch the fifth game, Kershaw felt his back tighten after his final warmup throw. He then tried to throw one more to test his back, but immediately moved toward the Dodgers dugout. He left the game with coach Thomas Albert.
Kershaw said he’ll know more after seeing how he wakes up after Friday and the series of tests. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said there’s always a level of concern when it comes to Kershaw’s back, but they won’t have much information until Friday.
“It’s a fair amount,” Kershaw said, when asked how frustrating it is to deal with back pain issues. “Felt kind of locked up in the fifth. Couldn’t really throw after that.
The future Hall of Famer battled back problems throughout his career, landing on the injured list in five of his last seven seasons with a back injury. Kershaw never missed less than three weeks at each point on the injury list. This season, Kershaw missed a month with right SI joint inflammation that flared up during a cross-country flight.
Although the Dodgers will know more following the test, another spot on the injured list for Kershaw is off the table.
“I’m not going to try to get too far ahead of that,” Roberts said. “Obviously any time a pitcher has to come out of a game, there’s some level of concern. Again, because it’s on his back, it’s been problematic at times — we won’t know more until we get some tests.
If Kershaw is forced to miss time, it will be another big blow to the Dodgers. When healthy, Kershaw has been one of the club’s best pitchers, posting a 2.64 ERA over 15 starts. The Dodgers did not make a trade in the opener before the Aug. 2 trade deadline. Instead, they got right-hander Mitch White — their best depth piece.
Dustin May, who pitched four innings with Triple-A Oklahoma City during his rehab stint on Wednesday, will need at least one outing in the minors before being a candidate to replace any starts Kershaw might miss. Ryan Bebiot, who has a 2.76 ERA in four starts this season, is also an option.
Seeing Kershaw leave the game went wrong for the Dodgers during a 7-1 road trip against the Rockies and Giants. LA has won eight in a row against the Giants, sweeping them in a four-game series in San Francisco for the first time since 1977.
The Dodgers’ dominance and the Giants’ frustration showed in the sixth inning, when reliever Jarlin Garcia struck out Cody Bellinger and James Outman to mock Los Angeles’ victory celebration. After finishing the second punch out frame, Garcia pointed to Mookie Betts in the on-deck circle as he left the field. Betts took exception.
“I don’t know. I didn’t do anything. It was all a surprise to me,” said Betts, who hit his 25th homer of the season to put the Dodgers in the fourth. “I think he felt a certain way. I do not know. You have to ask him.”
After the game, Garcia said he didn’t want to disrespect any of the Dodgers players and that the Giants would be competitive. Garcia also said Betts was “one of my favorite players.” But Garcia pumped up the animated Dodgers following Trey Turner’s homer in the seventh.
“I’m not going to back down at that point,” Betts said. “I’m not going to run away from it. I’m not going to encourage it, but I’m not going to run away either.
Over the past month and a half, the Dodgers (72-33) haven’t shied away from any challenges. They are 39 games over .500 and have a 21 1/2 game lead NL West over the third-place Giants. After the All-Star break, the Dodgers are 12-3, the best mark in the majors.
Despite success in a banked-up Kershaw rotation, the Dodgers have been clicking on all cylinders for a long time. Friday, the first meeting since San Diego acquired Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Josh Hader and Brandon Drury, seems like a good time to host the Padres.
“We’re playing good baseball,” Roberts said. “We do things to win baseball games. It’s great to see.”