Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw scratched from NLCS Game 2; rookie Tony Gonsolin will start vs. Braves

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Los Angeles Dodgers, already facing a steep climb after dropping Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, suffered another blow Tuesday when they scratched Clayton Kershaw from his Game 2 start due to back spasms. 

Rookie Tony Gonsolin will make his postseason debut in Kershaw's place, a move that could significantly alter the Dodgers' pitching calculus this series. 

Kershaw, the 32-year-old three-time Cy Young Award winner with a famously mixed postseason track record, was once again the Dodgers' best pitcher this season, posting a 2.16 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 10 starts. He also registered victories in each of the Dodgers' first two playoff series, shutting out the Milwaukee Brewers over eight innings and striking out 13 to close out their wild-card series sweep. 

Now, the Dodgers will be hard-pressed to match the dominant Braves' staff if Kershaw cannot come back in Games 3 or 4. Dustin May, like Gonsolin a rookie right-hander, pitched 1 ⅓ innings in relief in Game 1 and manager Dave Roberts said afterward there was a chance May could start a Game 5. 

Though they did not announce it, the Dodgers likely penciled Gonsolin in for a Game 3 or 4 start. Now, he's faced with pitching the Dodgers back into the series, against fellow rookie Ian Anderson, who has not yet allowed a run in two playoff starts. 

Lefty Julio Urias, often deployed as the "bulk pitcher" following an opener, will also figure heavily in the Dodgers' immediate plans. Urias pitched five key innings in relief of May and Adam Kolarek to win the Dodgers' decisive Game 3 of the Division Series against the Padres.

Gonsolin has not pitched in a game since Sept. 26, and pitched in a simulated game over the weekend at Globe Life Field. He struck out a batter an inning this year and remains one of the Dodgers' most promising arms for the future.

But he's not Kershaw, who has made 27 postseason starts and planned to start his first playoff game near his hometown of Dallas. Instead, the lfty will grapple with back issues that first sidelined him in 2016, when he was limited to 21 starts. 

Additionally, with no off days in this best-of-seven series, Kershaw has less time to recuperate – as does a Dodger bullpen pressed into service early when Game 1 starter Walker Buehler lasted just five innings. Buehler has been nursing a pair of blisters on his throwing hand.

Gonsolin completed at least six innings in three of his five September starts, pitching seven innings once.

Monday, Kershaw said he believed the seven games, seven days format would be an asset.

"You’re going to use everybody," he said. "Seven games, seven days, there’s not too many guys that can throw seven straight days. It’s going to be taxing for both sides but we feel good about our guys, 1 through 28. I think it’s favorable to us, so I like it."

The format ensures Kershaw will only start one game this series; a Game 3 start would force him to pitch a Game 7 on short rest, which seems unlikely given his back spasms.

The Dodgers will likely play a pitcher down until Kershaw returns; if he is replaced on the roster mid-series, he'll be ineligible to pitch in the World Series, as well.

That's the case for Braves outfielder Adam Duvall, who suffered an oblique injury in Game 1 and was replaced on the roster by Johan Camargo.

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