Clayton Kershaw’s latest injury overshadows Dodgers’ sweep

Clayton Kershaw knew immediately something was wrong.

Before starting the bottom end of the fifth inning Thursday afternoon at Oracle Park, Kershaw was throwing warm-up pitches as he said he “felt something trapped” in his lower back.

It was an instant red flag for a left-hander with a history of back problems, including a month-long absence earlier this season due to SI joint inflammation that was causing lower back pain.

Kershaw attempted to throw another warm-up pitch but was clearly still uncomfortable.

He waved at a trainer, said “That’s my back” as he left the mound, then walked slowly towards the dugout and appeared to grimace as he disappeared through the tunnel to the clubhouse.

The Dodgers still defeated the San Francisco Giants 5-3 on Thursday, completing their first four-game sweep in San Francisco since 1977 to finish 7-1 on a two-city trip.

But Kershaw’s injury – which the team described as a backache – overshadowed everything, dealing another potential blow to an already battered pitching baton for one of his key starters.

“Hard to say right now,” Kershaw said of his injury. “We’ll see more tomorrow. Just more back stuff.”

How frustrated was the 34-year-old veteran?

“A lot,” he said with a sigh.

Kershaw’s back has been struggling for years, leading to injury list stints in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020.

It was back pain after a cross-country flight in May that sparked Kershaw’s month-long injury list earlier this season.

Manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw will be getting “a lot of tests” in Los Angeles on Friday.

While Roberts wasn’t sure about the severity of this injury or whether Kershaw needs to be put on the injured list, he admitted there were some concerns “given his back, which has been problematic at times.”

“We’re just not going to know until we have some testing,” Roberts added.

Kershaw’s early exit — which followed four strong innings in which he gave up his only two runs (one of which was unearned) on a two-run home run against JD Davis in the second inning — also came two days after a trade deadline stuck in the Dodgers (72-33) relatively calm.

Faced with inflated prices for many stars, particularly top-tier starting pitchers, the team gave up pursuing several potential trade targets.

Instead, they just made a pitching addition in middle reliever Chris Martin. And they gambled on their hope that their staff would solidify as a championship-caliber collection as other injured pitchers like Walker Buehler, Dustin May and Blake Treinen heal on the line.

Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers plays against the San Francisco Giants.

Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers plays against the San Francisco Giants.

(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Any lengthy absence from Kershaw would thwart those plans, with the start of the playoffs a little over two months away.

“Certainly the calendar isn’t on our side,” Roberts said. “But we’ll see about tomorrow, the results, the tests and also see how he feels.”

Kershaw added, “Hopefully I don’t wake up that bad.”

Kershaw’s back wasn’t the only thing that flared up Thursday.

With the Dodgers leading 4-2 at the bottom of the sixth inning, Giants helper Jarlín García twice mimicked the Dodgers’ head-tap celebration — where their batsmen pound on their helmets with a closed fist after a hit.

García did it first after beating Cody Bellinger. When James Outman was called for the third out in the next at-bat, García not only did it again, but pointed to Mookie Betts in the circle on deck.

Betts said after the game he didn’t say anything to García during the at-bat but approached the pitcher after the inning was up.

“I was just saying, what’s your problem?” said Betts, whose triple home run in the fourth inning gave the Dodgers the lead. “I don’t know. I was just standing on deck. You’ll have to ask him, I have no idea.”

In the ensuing back-and-forth, García was kicked out, as was Giants manager Gabe Kapler, who got into a heated argument with first base umpire Phil Cuzzi.

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler reacts to the umpire crew after being ejected.

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler (left) reacts to the umpire crew after being ejected during the sixth inning in San Francisco on Thursday.

(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

“At the point of the game and the score and the innings, it didn’t really make much sense to a lot of us,” said Trea Turner, whose fandom of the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” was the origin of the Dodgers’ head-tap routine , which copies a scene from the film.

Roberts said he was surprised by García’s antics, noting that almost every team celebrates a hit.

“Mookie is a guy who does everything right and never had any intention of showing an opponent,” Roberts said. “He was amazed. He was shocked. Like me.”

Betts said he had no history with García other than facing him at the plate.

“I think he felt a certain way,” said Betts, who was more fired up than usual during his post-game scrum. “I don’t know. You have to ask him.”

García told reporters he’s not trying to be disrespectful. However, Kapler acknowledged that his player “probably crossed the line in this situation.”

Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before the Dodgers were head-knocking again when Turner hit a solo home run in the top of the seventh that helped put the game out of reach.

As Turner rounded third base — right in front of the Giants’ dugout — he banged his fist on his helmet.

The Dodgers’ dugout also erupted in an over-the-top version of the celebration, a response that Betts said “certainly” had additional motivation behind it.

“You started it,” he said. “I’m not going to back down at this point. I won’t run from it. I won’t encourage it, but I won’t run away.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-08-04/dodgers-giants-gamer-recap-clayton-kershaw Clayton Kershaw’s latest injury overshadows Dodgers’ sweep

Emma Bowman

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