As he warmed up to bat in the fifth, Kershaw felt his back cramp after the heat from the fan. He then tried to throw one more to check his back, but he immediately pointed to the Dodgers dugout. He left the game with coach Thomas Albert.
Kershaw said he’ll know more after seeing how he wakes up Friday and after a series of tests. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said there’s always a level of concern when it comes to Kershaw’s back, but he won’t have much information until Friday.
“It’s reasonable,” Kershaw said when asked how frustrating it would be to deal with more background issues. “In the fifth I felt like something was locked in there. After that, it could not be thrown.”
The future Hall of Famer has dealt with back problems throughout his career, going on the injured list in five of the past seven seasons. Kershaw hasn’t missed less than three weeks each on the injured list. This season, Kershaw missed a month with right SI joint pain that ruptured during a cross-country flight.
Although the Dodgers were more aware following the challenge, another time on Kershaw’s injured list was never off the table.
“I don’t try to go too far from it,” Roberts said. “Obviously, when a pitcher is out, it’s obviously at some level of concern. Again, sometimes it’s the back that’s the problem – we won’t know more until we get some tests.
If Kershaw is forced to miss time, it will be another big loss for the Dodgers. When healthy, Kershaw has been one of the club’s best hitters, posting a 2.64 ERA over 15 starts. The Dodgers did not trade for the starting pitcher before the Aug. 2 trade deadline. Instead, they traded away righty Mitch White — their best piece of depth.
Dustin May, who pitched four innings with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday during his rehab assignment, wants at least one more outing in the minors before becoming a candidate to replace any starts Kershaw might miss. Ryan Pepiot, who has a 2.76 ERA in four starts this season, is also an option.
Seeing Kershaw leave the game was about the only thing that happened for the Dodgers on a 7-1 road trip against the Rockies and Giants. LA has won eight in a row against the Giants for the first time since 1977 with a four-game sweep in San Francisco.
The Dodgers’ dominance and Giants’ frustration was evident in the sixth inning when reliever Jarlin Garcia mocked Los Angeles’ celebration after striking out Cody Bellinger and James Outman. After the second punch ended the frame, Garcia pointed to Mookie Betts, who was in the dugout as he walked off the field. Betts took a different position.
“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 fourth place. “I guess he felt something. I don’t know. You’d have to ask him.”
After the game, Garcia said he didn’t intend to insult any of the Dodgers players and the Giants were there to compete. Garcia also said Betts is “one of my favorite players.” But Garcia immediately followed Trey Turner’s homer in the seventh to lift the fired-up Dodgers.
“I’m not going back at that point,” Betts said. “I will not run away from it. I don’t encourage it, but I don’t run away from it.”
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 In third place, the Giants. Since the All-Star break, the Dodgers are 12-3, the best mark in the majors.
The Dodgers have been clicking on all cylinders for a long time, despite a battered Kershaw hitting the rotation. After getting Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Josh Hader and Brandon Drury from San Diego, the first meeting seems like a good time to host the Padres on Friday.
“We’re playing really good baseball,” Roberts said. “We’re doing things to win baseball games. It’s really cool to see.”