Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw left Sunday’s start after just two innings with right lower back tightness, the second such season in a row that back issues have popped up for the left-hander.
Kershaw grimaced after throwing a breaking ball to Atlanta Braves catcher Tyler Flowers in the second inning, prompting manager Dave Roberts to run to the mound along with trainer Nathan Lucero. After a few questions and warmup pitches, Kershaw remained in the game, finishing the inning.
But he was pinch hit for in the bottom of the second, making Sunday his shortest start since May 17, 2014.
Kershaw is headed for more tests on his back, and manager Roberts said after the game he expects Kershaw to be placed on the 10-day disabled list.
Ken Rosenthal reported on Monday that the initial prognosis for Kershaw has him missing four to six weeks, but until he has further tests, that is just an estimate.
The injury is especially concerning for the Dodgers, since Kershaw missed 10 weeks in 2016 with a herniated disc in his back. The Dodgers entered Sunday with the best record in baseball and a 10½-game lead in the National League West, so they have plenty of room to take whatever precautions are necessary to make sure Kershaw is healthy down the stretch and for the playoffs.
This is really the only blip in an remarkable season for Kershaw, who is 15-2 with a major league-best 2.04 ERA, with 168 strikeouts and 24 walks in 141⅓ innings. Kershaw was heating up of late, too. Counting the two scoreless innings on Sunday, Kershaw allowed three total runs in his last 38 innings.
The Dodgers’ rotation has been a strength outside of Kershaw as well, posting a 3.75 ERA in 78 starts. Entering Sunday, the only entire-staff starting ERAs better than the non-Kershaw Dodgers were the Arizona Diamondbacks (3.52) and Washington Nationals (3.59).