May 29, 2024

Sheer will. That’s the best way Dave Roberts could explain Clayton Kershaw’s last two months.

Since suffering a shoulder injury in late June, Kershaw has not possessed the typical dominance that has defined his decorated Dodgers career. His fastball struggles to hit 90 mph. His command has often gone absent at times. His mechanics, unaffected by his multitude of previous injuries, have gotten out of sync.

Yet, in the 16th (and potentially final) year of his future Hall of Fame career, Kershaw crossed the finish line in a flurry.

Even without his best stuff, he gave up no more than three runs in his final eight starts after returning from the injured list in early August — including outings of one run or fewer in six of them.

Despite his physical limitations, he remained the Dodgers’ most consistent starting pitcher, helping the team win six of those eight games to pull away in the National League West standings.

And after finishing his regular season with a 5⅓-inning, two-run start Saturday in a 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, Kershaw cemented his status as the team’s top arm in 2023, closing the year with 13 wins, a 2.46 ERA and 131 ⅔ innings pitched — all bests among the Dodgers’ short-handed rotation.

“It’s just will,” Roberts said. “He just finds a way to do his job, and do it well. I just marvel at him.”

The Dodgers lost after managing one run on seven hits.

Kershaw was the pitcher of record, as well, after the Giants scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning on a potential inning-ending double-play ball that was booted at third base by Max Muncy.

Still, the 35-year-old left-hander will go into the playoffs as one of the Dodgers most important pieces, lined up to pitch either Game 1 or Game 2 of the team’s NL Division Series next week.

“I’m excited for him to pitch, and see what the postseason has for us,” Roberts said. “It was a little scary for a minute there [when he was battling his shoulder injury]. But I think each start from that point on, the command has been better, the breaking ball stuff has been more sharp … [and] I would expect the stuff to continue to tick up in the postseason.”

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