If you thought the Dodgers would just coast through the rest of the regular season without any games being blown or terrifying injuries to key players then you’re probably unfamiliar with Dodger baseball, or with baseball for that matter. The Dodgers did walk-off to beat the Braves 5-4 in 10 innings on Sunday afternoon, but the focus was not on another thrilling victory. The focus was on Clayton Kershaw. The southpaw was forced to exit the game after just two innings because of what the Dodgers reported as lower right back tightness.
The news sent the twitter world into panic. What an aggravating turn of events for the Dodger nation. I had settled in with my cup of coffee ready to watch another pleasantly dominating Kershaw start. Instead I was greeted with Kershaw leaving with a back injury, Ross Stripling gagging up a run in the third, and Trayce Thompson striking out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third. Honestly I wanted to throw a shoe through my television set.
Braves 4 5 0
Dodgers 5 8 0
Kershaw looked fine retiring the side in the first and recording the first two outs in the top of the second. But after falling behind Tyler Flowers 3-1, he was seen grimacing after throwing a curveball in the dirt. The training staff immediately leaped out of the dugout and onto the field. Kershaw made a practice pitch and then the training staff and Dave Roberts left him in to finish the inning. As he walked Flowers we could see Ross Stripling warming up in the bullpen. Uh-oh.
Kershaw would then strike out Matt Adams, but his day was done. He was seen walking gingerly into the clubhouse. Flashbacks to last season’s herniated disc gave us all horrifying nightmares. The rumors of the Dodgers strong interest in Yu Darvish only makes us even more worried. Is this a reoccurrence of the same injury that kept him out for over 6 weeks last season?
The game went on, but I had trouble concentrating. My mind was on Kershaw’s back. The Braves were up 1-0 and the Dodgers couldn’t hit opposing starter Sean Newcomb who came into the game with an ERA of over 11 in July.
The Dodgers would eventually take the lead in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a three-run home run from Austin Barnes that landed into the Field seats inside the foul pole. With a 3-1 lead the Dodgers were forced to empty out their bullpen because of the Kershaw injury.
But the bullpen did well. Stripling pitched three innings and turned the ball over to Luis Avilan. He pitched an inning and two thirds and then Josh Fields came in to record the last out of the sixth inning.
Meanwhile the bats didn’t do much. Fortunately Cody Bellinger gave the Dodgers a hugely important insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when he slugged his 27th home run of the season off of Rex Brothers that landed into the Atlanta bullpen. That put the Dodgers up 4-1. It looked like the Dodgers would be fine, at least for the rest of the game.
Pedro Baez got the first two outs of the top of the eighth and then the Dodgers turned to Kenley Jansen for another 4-out save. Kenley got the Dodgers into the ninth with a three-run lead and again things looked fine.
The thing is, nobody can save 1,000 games in a row not even Kenley. There is always a due to lose factor in baseball and especially a due to blow a save factor for Kenley. California Love hadn’t blown a save since August of 2016. But that happened today as tub of lard Matt Adams hit a game –tying three-run home run with two outs in the top of the ninth to send the game into extra innings. Of course it was Adams that hit the game tying shot today of all days.
The Dodgers tried to walk it off in the bottom of the ninth when Barnes singled, took second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a ground out. But they left him stranded there after Yasmani Grandal popped out.
Brandon Morrow pitched a scoreless tenth inning and I figured the Dodgers chances of winning lessened as each inning went by because they had emptied out most of their bullpen. They needed to win as soon as possible because of a thin bullpen.
They did that in the bottom of the tenth, off of former Dodger Jim Johnson for good measure. Chris Taylor singled, and was erased on the bases thanks to a Corey Seager force out. Justin Turner who’s been battling illness singled him to third. After the Braves intentionally walked Bellinger to load the bases, Logan Forsythe singles up the middle to win it for the Dodgers. 5-4 the final score.
The Minnesota Twins come into town tomorrow, but nobody is thinking of the Twins until we know what’s going on with Clayton Kershaw’s back. Tests are scheduled for tomorrow. Hyun-jin Ryu is scheduled to come off the disabled list to take the hill on Monday night. Reanimated corpse Bartolo Colon will toe the rubber for Minnesota.
The Dodgers are still in a great place with a 10.5 game lead in the NL West, but say a prayer for Kershaw as the Dodger’s 2017 season may rest upon his broad shoulders. Or back. Gulp.