LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw returned to the mound Thursday for the first time in more than four weeks and left after five innings with more questions than answers, as he will be going for an MRI on his back Friday in Los Angeles. Depending upon the results of that
LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw returned to the mound Thursday for the first time in more than four weeks and left after five innings with more questions than answers, as he will be going for an MRI on his back Friday in Los Angeles. Depending upon the results of that test, the Dodgers' 2-1 loss to the Phillies could be the least important aspect of the game.
Kershaw gave up a single to Cesar Hernandez on the first pitch of the game, but escaped trouble as Aaron Altherr grounded sharply into a double play and Odubel Herrera lined out to second. Touching 90 mph with his fastball, Kershaw wasn't in dominant form, but that could be chalked up to rust from the time away.
In the second inning, Kershaw walked Maikel Franco, gave up a single to Nick Williams and saw Jorge Alfaro drop a single in front of center fielder Cody Bellinger to score Franco. Replays appeared to show that Franco never touched home plate, but the Dodgers didn't challenge the play.
From that point on, Kershaw seemed to cruise, allowing only one more baserunner. But he also wasn't throwing his fastball much, and when he did, it was topping out at 87-88 mph.
"He was very efficient," said manager Dave Roberts. "As the game went on, he was swing and miss, some soft contact."
However, Roberts started to notice that something wasn't quite right.
"I just saw that his stuff started to back up." he said. "The fastball, slider and the curve, everything seemed to kick down a bit."
Kershaw gave up only a single over his last two innings -- even striking out the side in the fifth, but he did that without throwing a fastball.
"There was a little something," Roberts said. "His back tightened up during the outing, so that could have contributed to the lack of velocity."
Kershaw was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth, when the Dodgers tied the game. Yasiel Puig led off with a double, advanced to third on Breyvic Valera's groundout and scored when Enrique Hernandez singled on a sharp ground ball deflected by first baseman Carlos Santana.
The Phillies retook the lead in the seventh, when Kingery singled with two outs and scored from first on a double by Alfaro, who was thrown out at third base by Puig.
Kershaw's line looked decent, considering the layoff: one run on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts, throwing 62 pitches, 42 for strikes. Unfortunately for Kershaw, the final pitching line doesn't tell the entire story.
"Beyond frustrating," he said. "I felt like I was out of the woods. I was feeling good and then to have that crop up."
The Dodgers are likely to be overly cautious and not take any chances with their star pitcher.
"Obviously with Clayton's history you want to make sure there is some concern," Roberts said. "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 too it."
Kershaw will not travel with the Dodgers for their series in Colorado but will stay in Los Angeles and have the medical staff check him out closer.
"Because of his history, we just make sure what we're dealing with," Roberts said.
Kershaw tried to take some of that history out of the equation.
"[The injury in] 2016 is entirely different. That was very, very severe," he said. "If I can compare it to anything, maybe comparing it to last year, maybe feeling it but it might not be that bad.
"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."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Phillies challenged Justin Turner's infield single with one out in the ninth inning, thinking shortstop Scott Kingery's throw just beat him to the bag. First-base umpire Ted Barrett called Turner safe, but the replay official overturned the call. Turner was out.
The Dodgers travel to Coors Field to open a three-game series against the National League West-leading Rockies on Friday at 5:40 p.m. PT. Colorado will send out left-hander Tyler Anderson, while the Dodgers will go with a bullpen day with Kenta Maeda recently landing on the DL. Right-hander Dennis Santana is expected to make his Major League debut for Los Angeles, but Roberts did not announce if that would be as a starter or in relief.
Glenn Rabney is a contributor to MLB.com based in Los Angeles.