(Photo credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)
Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw will take the mound on Saturday against the San Francisco Giants in what could be the final regular-season start at Dodger Stadium of his storied career.
The 35-year-old Kershaw, who is operating on a one-year contract, said he has yet to decide whether to pitch again in 2024. At issue is a shoulder injury that has bothered him in the second half, although the club has characterized it as an issue with pitching mechanics.
Loath to admit when he is ailing throughout his career, Kershaw gave a roundabout nod to his shoulder discomfort this week.
"Look, health has a lot to do with it," Kershaw said about a return for his 17th season. "There's a lot of factors that have to do with it. But if I'm playing next year, then that means I can compete the way I want to compete and I feel like I can go out there and really pitch. We'll have to see."
Despite a six-week stint on the injured list for his shoulder issue and reduced velocity upon his return, Kershaw still has been able to deliver a 12-4 record with a 2.52 ERA this season. He was named an All-Star for the 10th time.
And perhaps it is fitting that his potential final home start will be against the Giants, a team he has faced a career-high 57 times (55 starts) with a 25-15 record and a 2.02 ERA. Kershaw's last scheduled start of the regular season will come next Saturday at San Francisco.
"If I knew this was my last regular-season start at Dodger Stadium, I would probably be sentimental more," Kershaw said. "But I just don't have that right now."
The Giants (77-77) have not named a starter for the third contest of the four-game series.
San Francisco's playoff prospects have been slipping away despite earning a much-needed 5-1 victory over the Dodgers (94-59) on Friday. Sean Manaea went seven scoreless innings, while Mike Yastrzemski, Thairo Estrada and Tyler Fitzgerald each hit a home run.
Fitzgerald belted his first home run in his second career game. He said he likes the atmosphere in the clubhouse despite San Francisco's three-game deficit in the wild-card standings with eight games remaining.
"The mood is fine," Fitzgerald said on the Apple TV broadcast. "I didn't know what to expect coming up here, three games back or whatever. But the mood is fine, everyone is pretty light still. We can still win these games and make a comeback here. We're not out of it yet."
San Francisco was a half-game out of a wild-card spot as recently as Sept. 13. Standing in their way of making up ground is five more games remaining against the Dodgers, including the final three of the season next weekend at San Francisco.
The Dodgers might have their playoff spot secured, but they still are trying to clinch a top-two seed in the NL playoffs.
In two games of the current series, the Giants' Joc Pederson is showing his former team what they are missing. Pederson hit a home run Thursday and had a pinch-hit double with a run scored Friday.
--Field Level Media