Dodgers lose to Marlins, 4-1, in Kershaw’s return


Clayton Kershaw lasted three innings in his return and took the loss as the Dodgers dropped a 4-1 decision to the Miami Marlins in the lefthander’s first start since going on the disabled list two months ago with a back injury. Los Angeles Times reporter Andy McCullough tracked the action as it developed.

Kershaw goes three innings, takes loss, 4-1, against Marlins

Hunched on the Dodgers bench, sheathed in sweat, Clayton Kershaw saw the outstretched hand in front of him and looked up. Before him stood Manager Dave Roberts, offering the universal signal for the end of his evening. Kershaw did not accept the shake. He did not want to leave, not after only three innings in a 4-1 loss to the Miami Marlins.

“That’s the competitor in him,” third baseman Justin Turner said. “Even though he knew he was on a pretty short leash, when you get into a dogfight like that, you don’t want to give the ball up. That’s who he is. That’s why he is who he is.”

In his first action on a big league mound in 75 days, Kershaw showed signs of promise and signs of rust Friday night. His fastball velocity held at 93 mph. His curveball and slider hung too often at the waists of Miami’s hitters. He gave up two runs and five hits. He struck out five in a 66-pitch performance.

Returning to action from a herniated disk, Kershaw did not expect to finish the game. But he expected to pitch more than a third of it. He listened as Roberts explained the decision in the top of the fourth. Kershaw rubbed away some of the perspiration from his face and stared down to the end of the dugout. Roberts patted his back, and sat down beside him.

Unable to solve Marlins starter Jose Fernandez, the Dodgers (79-61) saw a five-game winning streak end. The team may have planned to treat the game like a rehabilitation outing for Kershaw, a trial balloon floated at major league intensity. Kershaw holds himself to a higher standard. He could not reach those heights after the two-month layoff.

“I’m out there to win,” Kershaw said. “I’m out there to get guys out, very consistently. And I wasn’t able to do that tonight.”

Neither his slider nor his curveball cooperated. On his sixth pitch of the game, Kershaw left a 2-1 slider over the plate for catcher J.T. Realmuto, whose solo home run cleared the left-field fence. An inning later, Marlins first baseman Chris Johnson punched a belt-high curveball into center for an RBI single.

The brevity of the outing and the frequency of the hits obscured Kershaw’s ability to still disarm big league hitters. He struck out the side in the second and finished his night by fanning outfielder Marcell Ozuna with a full-count slider. Ozuna threw his bat in disgust. Kershaw would save his displeasure for a few minutes later, when Roberts approached him in the dugout.

“He’s got such finite tunnel vision that he was a little caught off guard,” Roberts said.

Roberts understood the significance of the evening. The Dodgers had created a comfortable distance between themselves and the San Francisco Giants in the National League West. With Rich Hill healthy, Kenta Maeda steady and Kershaw on the verge of a return, a playoff rotation was beginning to take shape.

“It’s one game,” Roberts said in the afternoon. “But obviously for Dodgers fans, for the guys in the clubhouse, it’s the biggest game in a while.”

In his lone rehab outing, six days ago with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, Kershaw completed three innings in 34 pitches. He experienced more stress Friday, almost immediately. After retiring former Dodger Dee Gordon on two pitches, he fell behind Realmuto. Kershaw produced his usual velocity on his slider, but not typical command. Realmuto sent it soaring out to left.

“I was throwing strikes,” Kershaw said. “They just weren’t quality strikes.”

The second inning produced more frustration. The Marlins smacked three hits, the final two on misplaced breaking balls. Kershaw could not put away journeyman outfielder Jeff Francouer, who poked a full-count fastball into left for a one-out double. Two pitches later, Kershaw fed Johnson a hittable curveball.

Johnson sent a flare up the middle. Chase Utley ranged backward from second base and leaped. The ball glanced off his glove and fell into the outfield. When Kershaw flipped a slider down the middle two batters later, Fernandez smashed a grounder up the middle, nearly clipping Kershaw in the process.

“I think we all held our breath a little bit,” Roberts said. “Tomorrow will be more telling.”

Kershaw ended the second by whiffing Gordon with a slider. The inning lasted 29 pitches, which reduced his chances of advancing deep into the game. After two quick outs in the third, Kershaw tested his back by pouncing on a grounder in front of the mound. His throw was late and low, allowing outfielder Christian Yelich to reach on a single.

For Kershaw, the night ended shortly after Ozuna flailed at his slider. He eventually accepted the decision by Roberts. As the game drifted through the middle innings, Kershaw pulled on a jacket and chatted with his manager.

“He came back in the dugout and said he felt good,” Roberts said. “Obviously, every game is important. But for Clayton to be back on the mound, that’s a win for us.”


Coleman in, Kershaw out


Kershaw finished after three innings, 66 pitches; Marlins lead, 2-0

That slider to Marcel Ozuna was Kershaw’s last pitch of the evening. Manager Dave Roberts approached him in the dugout in between innings and talked to him. Kershaw did not come back out for the fourth.

Kershaw threw 66 pitches in three innings, in an outing that doubled basically as a rehabilitation start. He struck out five and gave up two runs on five hits. He walked none.

He has 150 strikeouts this season, and nine walks.His earned-run average for the season ticked up from 1.79 to 1.89. He started the game with a record of 11-2.

We’ll see if he takes his third loss or the Dodgers can mount a rally against Jose Fernandez.

There will be one more update at the end of the game.


Another first for Clayton Kershaw, who has five strikeouts and no walks today


3rd inning: Two more strikeouts for Kershaw, no more runs for Marlins

Clayton Kershaw looked much more effective in the third. He struck out Martin Prado with a slider, after missing with a pair of sliders earlier in the at-bat, when Prado swung through the breaking ball.

Christian Yelich reached base when he tapped a grounder toward the mound. Kershaw pounced on the ball, but his throw to first was low and late.

Kershaw ended the inning on a positive note. He struck out outfielder Marcel Ozuna with an inside slider. Ozuna spiked his bat in disgust after the last pitch.

But with his pitch count at 66, Kershaw’s night may be over soon. Louis Coleman started to warm up in the Dodgers bullpen after the single by Yelich.


From the start, a focus on the bright side


2nd inning: Kershaw fans side, but takes 29 pitches to do it; Marlins up, 2-0

The hanging breaking ball continued to vex Clayton Kershaw in the second inning. After giving up a full-count double to Jeff Francoeur, who pulled a fastball on the hands into the left-field corner, he left a curveball over the middle for first baseman Chris Johnson.

Johnson hit a flare up the middle. Chase Utley leaped and nearly snagged the baseball, but it bounced off his glove for an RBI single and Miami’s second run. The inning continued when the opposing pitcher, Jose Fernandez, chopped a slider over the mound for another single.

Kershaw emerged from the inning without allowing another run. He did record three strikeouts. He needed 29 pitches to get through it.


Another run for the Marlins


Marlins up a (home) run on Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw received a rude welcoming in his first inning back. He gave up a solo homer to Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto on his sixth pitch of the game. Kershaw hung a 2-1 slider, and Realmuto bashed it over the left-field fence.

Otherwise, Kershaw looked fine. His fastball velocity held around 93 mph. He picked up three groundouts and finished the inning in 14 pitches. He showed little interest in fielding a grounder tapped back toward him by third baseman Martin Prado. Kershaw let catcher Yasmani Grandal handle that one.


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Dodgers are ready for Kershaw’s return against the Marlins

The Dodgers have finished up batting practice, but Clayton Kershaw has yet to take the field to start his warmup routine for Friday’s start against Miami. He is expected to throw four or five innings in his first outing since June 26. He missed more than two months because of a herniated disc in his back.

Manager Dave Roberts acknowledged the importance of this game earlier this afternoon.

“It’s one game, but obviously for Dodgers fans, for the guys in the clubhouse, it’s the biggest game in a while,” Roberts said.

Roberts mentioned he was happy for Kershaw because he worried about the player’s “sanity” while he was stuck on the disabled list.

“I think that he’s been going crazy, watching his teammates,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers cannot predict how Kershaw’s back will respond on Friday or on Saturday morning. But Roberts expressed his confidence in Kershaw’s ability to compete at this level.

“The docs say he’s healthy enough to pitch,” Roberts said. “Clayton feels like he’s healthy enough to go out there and start a major-league game. Rick [Honeycutt] has pointed out that to expect him to be in midseason form is unfair. He hasn’t pitched in a major-league game in a while. We all know that Clayton is going to expect to be dialed in. But we’ll see.”