In a season where seemingly nothing bad could happen to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team with the best record in Major League Baseball got some unsettling news. Their ace pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, likely on his way to another Cy Young Award, will be out for awhile. It's something the team had to deal with last year en route to its fourth straight division title, and now it's happened again. If there's a team that can deal with it, though, it's this one.
It happened in the second inning Sunday. With one out and nobody on, and Atlanta's Nick Markakis at the plate, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts saw something wrong with Kershaw, called time, and went sprinting out to the mound. After a lengthy discussion with Kershaw and the trainers, the lefty remained in the game. He got Markakis to ground out, walked Tyler Flowers, and struck out Matt Adams to end the inning. It also ended his day, but hopefully not his season. 'Lower back tightness' was the explanation given to the media.
Listening to the broadcast, it was easy to think that Roberts was being overly cautious with Kershaw, but hearing the pitcher speak after the game, you knew something was really wrong. He was asked to compare this back injury with the herniated disc that sidelined him for two months last year, he wouldn't do it. You expected him to say this is nowhere near as serious as that injury, but he was more stoic. Roberts announced a stint on the Disabled List was likely, which happened today—the injury officially listed as a lower back strain.
While last year's injury appears to be the more serious, the 2016 Dodgers rallied around his absence. Kershaw missed 64 games, but the Dodgers went 39-25 in that span. When he got hurt, the Dodgers were in second place—eight games behind the San Francisco Giants. When he returned, the Dodgers were in first—five games ahead. The offense picked up the slack, and scored an average of five runs a game.
This year's scenario is different. The Dodgers already have the best record in baseball, have an 11½-game lead in their division, and can start printing playoff tickets without much worry about refunds. Several are saying, and it's tough to disagree, that if there ever is a good time for a pitcher to miss some time, this would be it. An extended stay on the DL might cost Kershaw (15-2, 2.04 ERA) the Cy Young, but having him rested and healthy come playoff time could mean the team's first World Series appearance in almost 30 years.
You know they'll be keeping track, so let's get it started now. The Dodgers ended up winning yesterday's game after Kershaw's exit. The final was 5-4 in 10 inningss vs. Atlanta. Tonight, the Dodgers got a three-run home run from Cody Bellinger in the eighth inning, and beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4. The Dodgers, with Kershaw sidelined, are 2-0.
Crazy stats: The Dodgers played their 100th game of the season tonight—beating Minnesota 6-4. Their record is 69-31, on pace to win 111 games... Cody Bellinger hit his 28th home run of the season—a three-run shot in the eighth inning which turned out to be the game winner. Bellinger's homers have been dramatic—13 of the 28 have come in the eighth inning or later... The Dodgers have won 47 straight games in which they have had the lead during any point. They led 3-2 tonight, endangered the streak when they fell behind 4-3, but re-took the lead for good on Bellinger's bomb.
Trade talk: Even before Kershaw's injury, the Dodgers were rumored to be in the market for another starting pitcher before next Monday's trading deadline. Although management won't say it publicly, you know they'll do something. Oakland's Sonny Gray, Detroit's Justin Verlander, and Texas' Yu Darvish are the most frequently mentioned names... The Dodgers did make a deal earlier this week, sending pitcher Sergio Romo to Tampa Bay for future considerations. Romo was designated for assignment last week after a disappointing year since coming over from the Giants during the off season... Kansas City, recently thought to be sellers with several impending free agents, acquired pitchers Trevor Cahill, Ryan Buchter, and Brandon Maurer from the Padres for three minor leaguers.. With the Dodgers hosting Minnesota this week, it's hard not to think about what might have been. Twin's second baseman Brian Dozier (.253, 16 HR, 58 RBI, 10 SB) was reportedly the subject of trade talks with the Dodgers, but LA went out and got Logan Forsythe (.244, 3 HR, 18 RBI, SB) from Tampa Bay instead.
TV Talk: We all know television has too much power in the major sports landscape, but you have to feel a little bit for ESPN on this one. The network rarely televises a weeknight game in the Pacific time zone, but carried Nationals-Angels from Anaheim Wednesday night for one main reason—the matchup between Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. So what happened? Harper didn't play. Nats manager Dusty Baker gave him the night off. C'mon Dusty, you could have thrown us a bone here and rested him the next night... The Colorado Rockies are getting some ESPN love tonight. They were featured on the Monday night game at St. Louis, but lost to the Cardinals 8-2. The Dodgers will be part of the Sunday night game against the Giants from Dodger Stadium... It's not a real word but it sounded good. ESPN's Aaron Boone about the potential of Kershaw landing on the Disabled List, said that with the new 10-day DL instead of 15, teams are more likely to use it “precautionarily”.
Late break: The Great West League held its second annual All-Star game tonight in Chico, with representatives of the other five teams defeating the defending champion Chico Heat 11-1. League play resumes tomorrow night with about a dozen games remaining. The Marysville Gold Sox (19-29) are four games out a playoff spot, and are two losses away from having their first collegiate losing season ever. The Yuba City Bears have lost 15 straight, and only have 10 wins on the year.