LOS ANGELES -- Last season, Clayton Kershaw was expected to be a big part of the Dodgers’ postseason plan. But a forearm injury, which he suffered in his last regular season start, ultimately ended his season, forming a huge hole in the Dodgers’ rotation.
Though the postseason is still a month away, the expectation is the same for Kershaw this season. He’ll have to be one of their best starters. As things stand, Kershaw could potentially slot in as the Dodgers’ Game 2 or Game 3 starter in the NL Division Series.
But before the Dodgers allow themselves to start mapping that out, their main goal over the next month is to continue building up the left-hander and keeping him healthy. It was clear why as Kershaw allowed two runs and struck out eight over six innings in the Dodgers’ 7-3 win over the Giants on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
With the win, the Dodgers’ magic number to win the NL West is down to six, making it possible to clinch over the weekend with a sweep over the Padres in San Diego. The Dodgers would also clinch a spot in the postseason for a 10th consecutive season with a win on Friday.
“I feel like he’s strong, he didn’t lose anything with the arm because it was only three weeks [on the injured list],” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “The way he threw today kind of validated that.”
That set the stage for Justin Turner, who continued his tear at the plate by launching a three-run homer to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. Turner extended his hitting streak to 16 games, matching a career high.
In the eighth, the Dodgers delivered the knockout punch. Trea Turner put the Dodgers ahead with a one-out double and Muncy hit a three-run homer to put the game out of reach. Muncy hit three homers in the series and now has 21 career homers against the Giants.
“I think it’s just guys putting together good at-bats,” Muncy said. “The game got tied up there [in the seventh]. We strung together several good at-bats and made things happen.”
Those at-bats were plenty for Kershaw, who was sharp from the beginning once again, striking out the first two batters he faced on Wednesday, then retiring six of the first seven and 12 of the first 14. Kershaw’s offspeed pitches were a big part of his success against the Giants.
Kershaw recorded 18 swings and misses on Wednesday, nine coming on the slider and six on his signature curveball. His only mistake came in the fifth when he served up a two-run homer to David Villar. Other than that, Kershaw was efficient and effective, needing 86 pitches to get through six innings. That puts him on track to be fully built up following his next start against the D-backs.
“I probably had three bad pitches today and they were all hits. One of them is a homer, which is frustrating, but overall felt great,” Kershaw said. “I thought my fastball command was actually pretty good overall. So another good step forward.”
That leaves Kershaw as the Dodgers’ biggest weapon. If he continues to pitch like he did on Wednesday, the Dodgers’ chances at a title go up exponentially.
“I just want to pitch good leading into October,” Kershaw said. “You want to be a part of it. That’s why I came back. That’s why everybody wants to be on this team. It’s a special group and we got a chance to do something special. … I’m excited and hope to get that chance this year.”