How the staff ace fared in Game 1 of the World Series against the Red Sox on Tuesday would not only impact how the club's bullpen would line up for the rest of the series, it would also give insight to his availability going forward.
Kershaw had the potential to help set the tone for the series with a statement game. Instead, he left the club mulling its options after he didn't make it out of the fifth inning of an 8-4 loss. Kershaw was removed from the game after giving up seven hits on 79 pitches with a pair of runners on base and the game tied at 3.
What was supposed to be a clash of pitching titans did not live up to the billing. Boston starter Chris Sale pitched only four innings, marking only the fourth time in World Series history -- and the first time since Woody Williams and Tim Wakefield in 2004 -- that neither Game 1 starter lasted longer than four innings.
But give the Red Sox's offense credit. They made quick work of Kershaw.
Mookie Betts singled on a slider on Kershaw's sixth pitch of the game. Betts stole second base and scored on a single to right field by Andrew Benintendi, who then advanced to second when Yasiel Puig overthrew the cutoff man.
The overthrow proved to be costly. One out later, J.D. Martinez followed with a single to left that scored Benintendi, and just like that, Boston was up 2-0. Martinez was picked off first base for the second out of the inning and Kershaw got Xander Bogaerts to pop up in foul territory for the final out of the frame, but the damage was done.
Kershaw finished the inning with 20 pitches and he appeared to be on the ropes. He wasn't.
In the second, the lefty walked Rafael Devers on five pitches and struck out the next batter, Ian Kinsler. Kershaw escaped the inning unscathed when Jackie Bradley Jr. hit into an inning-ending double play.
Kershaw was crafty. He survived primarily with a slider that averaged 88 mph and a fastball that topped out close to 92 mph. Kershaw only threw the curveball -- his one-time signature pitch -- 13 times, but he could never find his groove.
Kershaw struck out Betts to start the bottom of the third, and Benintendi singled to left field. Steve Pearce grounded into what would have been an outstanding 6-4-3 double play, but the out at first was overturned after a replay review. Martinez followed with a double off the wall in center field to score Pearce and push the Red Sox ahead, 3-2.
In the fourth, Kershaw retired the side in order, including two by strikeouts, but he walked Betts on nine pitches to mark the beginning of the end of his outing in the next frame. A single by Benintendi made it official and he was replaced by Ryan Madson.
In the end, Kershaw was charged with five runs. He walked three and struck out five.