February 23, 2024

In the four days after his dreadful Game 1 start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Clayton Kershaw went through his usual between-starts routine, hoping to take the mound for Game 4 on Thursday for a chance to rebound and help keep the Dodgers’ season alive.

That opportunity never surfaced. The Dodgers’ 4-2 loss in Game 3 at Chase Field on Wednesday completed a shocking sweep for the Diamondbacks, handing them their second straight elimination in the National League Division Series to a club that finished far behind them in the NL West standings.

And now Kershaw, instead of taking the mound for the Dodgers on Thursday, may never pitch again. When asked about his baseball future after the loss, Kershaw acknowledged he hasn’t made a decision.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to look,” Kershaw said.

Kershaw, 35, is a free agent again this offseason by choice. He opted to sign one-year contracts in each of the last two offseasons to give himself the flexibility to either re-sign with the Dodgers, join his hometown Texas Rangers or retire. He’s said he will sign only one-year deals for the remainder of his career. The question now is if there’s any career remaining.

Asked if there is anything different about this offseason’s decision-making process compared with the last two winters, Kershaw acknowledged there is but chose not to elaborate.

“I don’t know how to answer that right now,” he said.

Clayton Kershaw sits in the dugout after being pulled in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS on Saturday.

Clayton Kershaw sits in the dugout after being pulled in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS on Saturday.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Kershaw emphasized he was “fine” after giving up six runs and recording one out in Game 1, but he has been dealing with an unspecified shoulder injury since July. He missed more than a month with the issue. When he returned in early August, his velocity was notably diminished.

He posted a 2.23 ERA in his final eight regular season starts, but he didn’t log more than 5 ⅓ innings or throw more than 84 pitches in any of the outings. The Dodgers, therefore, didn’t expect him to pitch deep into games in the postseason. His limitations were one of several for a starting rotation that logged 4 ⅓ total innings in the series.

On Saturday, the Diamondbacks chased him after just one out with a clear game plan: attack him early. Kershaw threw 35 pitches. Of those, 25 were strikes. The Diamondbacks swung at 24 of them. The swings generated 12 foul balls, five strikes, one groundout and six hits with exit velocities between 99 and 116 mph.

He was preparing for the opportunity to bounce back, but he won’t get one. Whether the nightmare outing was his last in a Dodgers uniform remains to be seen.

“Just obviously a horrible way to end it personally,” Kershaw said. “But that’s ultimately not important. It’s just how I didn’t help the team win the series. That’s the most disappointing part. Letting your guys down and things like that. Process it however best you can. I don’t even know what that means, really.”

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