Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw scratched from Game 2 start in NLCS

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw heads to the dugout after completing the top of the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres in Game 2 of a baseball National League Division Series Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, in Arlington, Texas.

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Clayton Kershaw was scratched Tuesday from his start for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series due to back spasms, though manager Dave Roberts said the likelihood is very good their ace lefty will pitch in the series.

The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner initially felt spasms after a bullpen session Saturday, three days after he went six innings to win Game 2 of the National League Division Series against San Diego. Roberts said Kershaw has felt better each day since but wasn't ready to make the scheduled start against the Atlanta Braves.

“Sunday, played some catch and just started to dissipate, got a little bit better. And then yesterday, a little bit better, even more,” Roberts said. “And then today just woke up and felt that it just wasn’t quite where he wanted to be, we wanted it to be.”

Rookie Tony Gonsolin was to make his major league postseason debut in Kershaw’s place with the Dodgers down 1-0 in the series to the Atlanta Braves. The right-hander hadn't pitched in a game since Sept. 26.

Kershaw played some catch on the field before Tuesday's game. Roberts said he wouldn't start Game 3 on Wednesday and would not commit to which game could be targeted for Kershaw's return.

“It’s kind of day to day. So I just really don’t want to say what’s the soonest,” Roberts said. “I don’t know.”

Roberts didn't say who would start Wednesday, ruling out only Game 1 starter Walker Buehler and Dustin May, who also pitched Monday night.

Los Angeles announced the decision on its longtime ace about six hours before the first pitch in Arlington, Texas. Kershaw dealt with back pain once previously during an otherwise resurgent season for the 32-year-old left-hander, a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner.

Roberts said the spasms weren't related to the back tightness that forced Kershaw to miss his opening start of the regular season.

Kershaw recovered quickly and went 6-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 10 starts as the Dodgers finished with the majors’ best record. He had 62 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings and finished second in the NL with an 0.84 WHIP, while opponents batted just .194 against him. Kershaw has kept it up in the postseason with victories in two strong starts.

“He’s been completely dominant all year. He’s been an ace. He’s back to his form and being totally dominant,” May said. “He’s definitely a leader and a key guy to our group. And I just hope that he’s going to be able to come back.”

When Kershaw wasn't ready for the opener, the 23-year-old May became the first Dodgers rookie to start on opening day since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.

Kershaw threw eight scoreless innings of three-hit ball and struck out a career postseason-best 13 to beat Milwaukee in the wild card round. Kershaw picked up another win in the Division Series while allowing three runs over six innings against San Diego.

Kershaw has dominated the Braves throughout his career, going 7-0 with a 1.49 ERA in 14 starts. He is 2-0 in three postseason starts against Atlanta, allowing just one earned run in 21 innings.

Although Kershaw has endured playoff problems in the past, his 11 postseason victories are the most in Dodgers history.

Gonsolin earned a spot in the Dodgers' rotation in late August after several outstanding spot starts. He had a 2.31 ERA in nine games during the regular season with 46 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings, earning consideration in the crowded field for the NL Rookie of the Year award.

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