If you blinked, you probably missed that Clayton Kershaw both returned, and was hurt yet again in the same evening. The LA ace pitched 5 innings last night, giving up one run and striking out five Philadelphia Phillies batters. It wasn't quite the return to dominance that the Dodgers were hoping for.
Though it wasn't his recent bicep injury that was flaring up, but the tightness in his back this time. To make matters worse, the Dodgers stuttered offensively and lost last night's game 2-1. And while the Dodgers have been decent without him, they would much rather have that insurance of keeping him healthy and in the rotation. However, the Dodgers, in general, seem to be struggling with a World Series hangover, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of that extra strain has been taking a toll on their ace.
A legend in waiting
No one can argue that Kershaw is a Hall of Famer in the making, but that's not an easy mountain to climb, especially if your body isn't cooperating. Here's just a quick rundown from Fox Sports to show you just how long he's been dealing with this back injury:
|05/06/2018||Left Biceps Tendinitis||10-Day Disabled List|
|05/03/2018||Left Biceps tendinitis||10-Day Disabled List|
|07/24/2017||Lower Back Strain||10-Day Disabled List|
|07/23/2017||Lower Back Tightness||Day-To-Day|
|06/30/2016||Mildly Herniated Disc, Lower Back||15-Day Disabled List|
|06/27/2016||Mildly Herniated Disc, Lower Back||15-Day Disabled List|
|06/27/2016||Mildly Herniated Disc, Lower Back||60-Day Disabled List|
In fact, according to ESPN, you can even trace Kershaw's back woes all the way to 2014:
Clayton Kershaw will undergo an MRI on his back and will not be traveling with the team for their weekend series against the Rockies.
The Dodgers are 2-6 in games started by Kershaw this season after losing just 8 in 2016 and 2017 combined. pic.twitter.com/XUm5FlFD56
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 1, 2018
It's when issues like this keep cropping up that most would wonder if this hall of fame trajectory that he's been on is just going to end up another sad "he almost made it" type of story. Dave Roberts has made it clear that they certainly try to handle all of Kershaw's injuries with the most care:
"Obviously with Clayton's history you want to make sure -- there is some concern,,,You want to make sure that he's well, so we're going to kind of dig into it and see if there is anything to it."
Kershaw himself is an extreme competitor. Often getting frustrated if he gives up a hit against an opposing batter let alone if he's forced to spend time on the disabled list.
"My back has felt unbelievable until today. The shoulder is fine. ... I'm frustrated and disappointed that I can't contribute to the team. Being on the DL is no fun. ... But maybe I can avoid that, we'll have to see what happens."
You could tell something was off last night when the three-time Cy Young award winner's fastball was only clocking about 90 miles per hour. And if there's one thing Kershaw has still yet to add to his resume and trophy case, it's that title of World Series Champion. He gave the Dodgers everything he had last season, finally dispelling all those naysayers about his abysmal postseason performances. His taking over to pitch a gem for four innings in Game 7 of the World Series after Yu Darvish buried the Dodgers alive shows that.
He's come oh so close and continues to come up short, and you can't win championships from the disabled list. The Dodgers will have to figure something out soon if they don't want this back and forth every season. Their window for a championship with Kershaw is slowly closing.