When Clayton Kershaw went down with a back injury on July 23rd, Dodger fans were worried. But since the back injury, the rest of the starting rotation have let us know, that we don’t need to fear because they are here.
On a that Sunday afternoon at the end of July, Dodger fans were ecstatic to see the best pitcher on the planet toe the rubber against the tricky Atlanta Braves. But after just 21 pitches and two innings of work Kershaw was yanked from the game. Kershaw was pulled with back tightness and panic ran through the hearts of many fans as this was the second consecutive season with an injury to his back.
Luckily for us fans, it was just a minor back injury but nonetheless, the ace would be missing multiple starts. The Dodgers held and still hold a significant margin in the NL West. So fans aren’t worried about losing the division lead, more so just worried about how the loss of the ace would affect the morale of a team running through and taking everybody’s lunch money like the bullies they are.
So how have the secondary players done since the ring leader has gone down with a back injury? Absolutely fantastic. The Dodgers have not skipped a beat. In the last 12 games since the Kershaw injury. Dodger starters are 11-1 with a 1.95 ERA. They have also allowed two runs or less in 9 of those 12 starts. Striking out 61 batters in just over 69 innings pitched.
But were Dodger fans actually surprised by thus remarkable feat? I for one was not in the slightest shocked because we’ve seen this all before. Kershaw missed ten weeks last season with a herniated disc. When this happened, the Dodgers were six games behind the division leading Giants and when he returned the Dodgers had made up the difference and jumped out ahead of San Francisco.
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Last season when this happened the Dodgers had ten different starters make an appearance while Kershaw was out. This season, although he will be out for a shorter period, you can expect to see 5-6 starters depending on injuries. They won’t need to test people and have them make spot starts because they already have a plethora of arms available and ready to battle for playoff slots.
The reason for this strong push after an injury to the best player on the team comes for many different reasons. But, the perhaps the most influential factor is the opportunity these players had when Kershaw went down. This injury gave multiple starters a chance to earn a slot on the 25-man playoff roster. Competition can bring out the best in people, and it sure has done that this time around.
Kershaw is expected to be back by this month which gives him time to sharpen up his tools and get ready for the post season. That locks down 1 of the 4 starters necessary in the playoffs. Yu already know who the number 2 starter will be so no need to mention his name. Alex Wood has been spectacular this year and earned the 3rd spot. The 4th spot belongs to Rich Hill….. For now.
Now, McCarthy, Ryu and Maeda are essentially fighting for the roster spot that Urias served in last season. The long-man in the bullpen who would come in if one of the said starter’s fails early on in a start. The fact that these 3 starters are fighting for the title of the 5th best starter on the team should let you know just how deep this team is.
For now, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda are throwing jabs back and forth against each other fighting for that spot. Maeda put together a decent start last night and Ryu up to this point has topped Maeda’s performance. The two pitchers go back and forth trying to outperform the other to hold their spot in the rotation. When Ryu’s changeup is on he’s very tough to hit, just ask the Mets. Maeda is on when his slider is working.
They understand that they have to pitch lights out if they are going to make the playoff roster. So this gives the Dodgers a healthy competition that brings out the best in those two starters in particular, but for the other three, it’s something different that helps them perform while Kershaw is out.
Darvish understands the greatness of the team, he joined mid-season and not wanting to disappoint the fans of his new team. Wood and Hill are similar because they both pitch with a chip on their shoulder. Perhaps hearing media members saying that the loss of Kershaw left the Dodgers weak but added fuel to their fire and brought out animals as Hill went on to win NL pitcher of the month in July.
Nonetheless the starting pitching somehow, some way, manages to get better when the best pitcher on the planet gets injured. They have been nothing short of elite this season and have continued their mission despite Kershaw’s brief absence, and the starting pitching is the main reason for this team’s success.