Clayton Kershaw returns from back injury, shows Dodgers what they want to see

The Dodgers snapped their annoying little five-game losing streak with a win over the Padres (LA 1, SD 0) Friday night. Los Angeles improved its record to an insane 92-51. The Nationals have the second-best record in baseball at 81-53.

For the Dodgers, more important than ending the five-game losing streak was the return of Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball. Kershaw has been sidelined since July 23 with a back injury. And in his return, Kershaw looked healthy and dominant. He looked like Clayton Kershaw, basically.

Against an admittedly weak Padres lineup, Kershaw needed only 70 pitches to strike out seven in six scoreless innings. Manager Dave Roberts understandably played it safe with his ace so soon after the back injury. I imagine they’ll look to stretch Kershaw out to 80-85 pitches in his next start. No need to push him too hard.

The Dodgers, for lack of a better term, are in spring training mode right now. Such is life when you have a 16-game lead in the division with 29 games to play. They are essentially auditioning players for the final few postseason roster spots, and the No. 1 goal the rest of the season is to make sure everyone stays sharp while getting enough time off to heal those bumps and bruises.

With Kershaw, the Dodgers will make sure he gets enough work this month to shake off any rust following the six-week layoff without pushing him so hard that he re-aggravates the back injury. There’s enough time remaining this season for Kershaw to make five more starts — with a few extra days of rest mixed in — before taking the ball in Game 1 of the NLDS.

For now, the Dodgers have to be thrilled with what they saw from Kershaw. He looked healthy and he threw free and easy. You’d never know he just missed a month with a back problem.

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