1:40PM: Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times (Twitter links) and other reporters that chances are “very good” that Kershaw will pitch in the NLCS but he won’t be starting Game 3. Kershaw’s back spasms developed during his bullpen session on Sunday, Roberts said.
11:57PM: The Dodgers have optimism that Kershaw can be back for Game 4, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets. “If his back improves relatively quickly,” there’s a chance Kershaw could even be ready for Game 3.
11:02PM: Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw has been scratched from his scheduled start in today’s Game 2 of the NLCS due to back spasms. Tony Gonsolin will instead take the ball to start against the Braves.
Kershaw has dealt with back problems at various points during this career, including a bout of back tightness that put him on the injured list for the first week of the 2020 season. Naturally, the timing couldn’t be much worse for Kershaw to again suffer back woes just hours before the start of Game 2, and the question now becomes when exactly the longtime Dodger ace will be able to pitch again.
Depending on the severity of the spasms, Kershaw could potentially start Wednesday’s Game 3, though that would seem to be a quick turn-around. Assuming the spasms are minor, Kershaw could be held off until Game 4 on Thursday, in what could be a series-deciding game should Los Angeles fall behind 3-0.
The Dodgers had been relying on Walker Buehler and Kershaw as the cornerstone of their postseason rotation plan, with the duo starting the first two games of each playoff series thus far. Dustin May started Game 3 of the NLDS against the Padres, and some combination of May, Gonsolin, and Julio Urias was expected to handle the third and fourth starter duties for the remainder of the playoffs, the Dodgers also making liberal use of their bullpen. Alex Wood was also added to the Dodgers’ NLCS roster to provide even more pitching depth given the lack of off-days throughout the series.
More immediately, Gonsolin now faces the immediate and unexpected pressure of having to keep Los Angeles out of an 0-2 series deficit in his postseason debut. Gonsolin has impressed over his two MLB seasons, posting a 2.60 ERA, 3.77 K/BB, and 8.6 K/9 over 86 2/3 innings, starting 14 of his 20 career games. It is something of a tribute to the Dodgers’ depth that a promising young arm like Gonsolin wasn’t even a full-time starter for them heading into October, but he will have a stiff test in a Braves lineup that crushed right-handed pitching this season.