Next week, the Los Angeles Dodgers will embark on a playoff journey for the ninth consecutive year. Yet this one could look decidedly different.
Their streak of National League West division titles is on the brink. They came back to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-6 on Friday night, but the San Francisco Giants lowered their magic number to clinch the division to one with a 3-0 victory over the San Diego Padres. The Dodgers must win their final two games, and the Giants must lose their last two to force a Game 163. If it doesn’t break L.A.’s way, the defending champion Dodgers will head to an N.L. wild-card game matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals despite having 104 wins and counting.
And they likely will navigate the postseason without Clayton Kershaw for the first time since 2006.
Kershaw, their former MVP, three-time Cy Young Award winner, and surefire future Hall of Famer, exited his start after giving up five hits and three runs in 1⅔ innings, throwing 42 pitches in his fourth start since missing nearly three months with a left forearm injury.
“Obviously, he felt something, didn’t feel like he could continue. We’re going to do some more tests (Saturday), but obviously, when Clayton has to come out of a game, it doesn’t bode well,” Roberts said after the game.
“What that means, we just don’t know enough right now. But where we’re at in the schedule and with what’s left of the season, just not too optimistic right now.”
Kershaw said he felt something in his forearm/elbow area – “kind of the same thing I’ve been dealing with” – and said he would get his arm examined in the coming days. He also seemed resigned to the fact this injury will likely end his season.
“I just wanted to be a part of this team going through October. This team is special… I know that we will do something special this year, and I wanted to be a part of that. That’s the hardest part for me right now, is just knowing that chances are, it’s not looking great for October right now,” Kershaw said.
“Overall, it’s going to be fun to watch, and I’m excited for these guys to do what they’re going to do in October.”
After this year, Kershaw, 33, is a free agent and hasn’t ruled out any scenario for the 2022 season.
He reiterated Friday night that his future is “going to take care of itself.”
“I really wanted to be a part of the moment right now, and I wanted to be with this group going through October. That was my only focus this whole year once I got hurt was just to come back and make it up for this month,” Kershaw said. “So that’s the hard part, right, is knowing it’s going to be a challenge to even contribute at all this next month.”
Kershaw might not have figured into the team’s plans until a Game 4 of the N.L. Championship Series, should they get there, with Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urías atop the rotation. Yet Dodgers playoff baseball will not be the same without the franchise’s most outstanding lefty since Sandy Koufax, whose October fate has ranged from dominant to star-crossed.
After 10 trips to the postseason, starting as a 20-year-old in 2008, Kershaw and the Dodgers finally broke through in 2020, winning their first championship since 1988 as Kershaw won four of his five playoff starts, including Games 1 and 5 of the World Series against Tampa Bay.
Kershaw’s 207 strikeouts are a postseason record, and he’s made 30 career starts – an entire season’s worth of playoff work.
This year, he finishes 10-8 with a 3.55 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121⅔ innings.