Sat Sep 25 7:30am ET
With the playoffs less than two weeks away, the Los Angeles Dodgers will continue the process of getting Clayton Kershaw up to speed for another potential October run.
Kershaw will take the mound for the Dodgers (99-55) on Saturday in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks (49-105) in Phoenix. It will mark Kershaw's third outing since spending nearly 2 1/2 months on the injured list with left elbow inflammation.
After throwing 50 pitches in his return on Sept. 13 and then reaching 74 on Sunday at Cincinnati, Kershaw (10-7, 3.27 ERA) figures to be in the 90-100 pitch range by the time the playoffs begin.
When he came back less than two weeks ago, Kershaw squared off against the Diamondbacks, giving up one run on four hits over 4 1/3 innings. His pitch count was set before the game began, yet the veteran still seemed to bristle when he was removed from the game.
A willingness to finish what he started is exactly what the Dodgers were hoping to see, even if that stubborn approach leads to awkward conversations at times.
On Sunday, Kershaw gave up just one run on three hits in a victory over the Reds. It was his first win since June 27.
"I had a little better feel, a little more crisp with each pitch," Kershaw said of the start. "Still got a little way to go as far as the stamina goes. ... It's another good building block. We've got another couple more before the playoffs so it was a good step forward."
In 38 career starts against Arizona, Kershaw is 18-10 with a 2.75 ERA with 258 strikeouts in 232 2/3 innings.
On Saturday, the Dodgers will get their first crack at their third 100-win season since 2017.
The Diamondbacks stayed competitive into the late innings of Friday's series opener before ultimately dropping a 4-2 decision. Los Angeles received a home run from AJ Pollock against his former team and stayed one game behind the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
Arizona will turn to right-hander Zac Gallen (2-10, 4.53 ERA) in the penultimate game of the season between the teams. Gallen is 0-2 with a 3.12 ERA in six career starts against the Dodgers.
The Dodgers are 15-2 in the season series and 6-1 in games played at Phoenix.
The Diamondbacks had just one victory in nine games before it was announced Thursday that manager Torey Lovullo had his contract extended despite the team's struggles. Arizona marked the occasion with a 6-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves before the Dodgers came to town.
Carson Kelly had a key home run for the Diamondbacks during Thursday's comeback victory, but the clutch hits failed to come the next day as the Dodgers used their outfield defense to finish off the victory. Pollock, Gavin Lux and Chris Taylor all made highlight defensive plays in the outfield for the Dodgers.
"We had that discussion in my office and that's been something that we've seen show up this year," Lovullo said of his team's penchant of failing to get clutch hits. "Our record doesn't indicate that we've won a lot of baseball games. We have to find a way to get that big hit, have the right guy at the right time step up."
Kole Calhoun belted his fifth home run of the season Friday, but the Arizona offense was held to four hits, while striking out 13 times.
--Field Level Media
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