He might have won a fourth NL Cy Young Award in many other seasons, but Clayton Kershaw could finish as low as third in this year’s voting and behind a teammate even if he reaches an unprecedented personal mark.
Before heading into the postseason, Kershaw will try to become the first in 13 years to register 300 strikeouts but will likely have an abbreviated start Sunday against the San Diego Padres.
Kershaw (16-7, 2.16 ERA) has often dominated opponents since the beginning of July with a 11-1 record and a 1.25 ERA in 16 starts, and that might have been enough to wrap up a Cy Young in another year.
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He certainly looked worthy Tuesday in San Francisco while tossing a one-hitter and fanning 13 in an 8-0 victory. That effort put him six strikeouts shy of 300.
Kershaw instead could finish behind the Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta and Dodgers teammate Zack Greinke, who finished with an MLB-best 1.66 ERA on Saturday. Greinke’s 2-1 win over San Diego also clinched home-field advantage for Los Angeles (91-70) in the upcoming division series against the New York Mets.
Kershaw will try to follow by becoming the first with 300 strikeouts since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did it for Arizona in 2002. Sandy Koufax was the last Dodgers pitcher to pull off that feat in 1966.
Kershaw, though, is scheduled to pitch four innings at the most in his tuneup for an expected Game 1 start Friday against the NL East champions. He has kicked off each of the last two postseasons for Los Angeles and was a 10-9 loser to St. Louis in the 2014 NLDS opener.
"I’ve been through it now a bunch, I think this is my fifth postseason now," Kershaw said. "I don’t know if you can get wiser from failing all the time. I know what that feels like."
Kershaw is 4-0 with a 1.41 ERA in his last six starts against the Padres (74-87) but hasn’t received a decision in his two matchups this season. He yielded one run and struck out 11 in 6 2-3 innings in his latest, a 4-3 win June 12.
Yasiel Puig is not expected to start after returning from a hamstring injury Saturday and extending his hit streak to 11 games.
Frank Garces (0-0, 5.00) is slated to make his first major league start in the end to San Diego’s fifth consecutive losing season. The left-hander, who has pitched in 39 games in 2015, might not go past the first inning with the Padres using their finale as a bullpen day.
San Diego is going that route so it can get one final look at its relievers heading into next season. James Shields was originally scheduled to start Sunday.
"The organization thinks it’s better to get a look at our bullpen pieces and use that game, like a lot of teams use that game, to find out more about your young players," interim manager Pat Murphy told MLB’s official website.
Justin Upton is not expected to play in the finale after straining his neck Wednesday while running headfirst into a padded wall in left-field foul territory. Wil Myers is also scheduled to sit along with former Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.