Clayton Kershaw struggles in Dodgers’ 4-1 loss

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The good news? Clayton Kershaw is back on a major league mound. It’s been a long 75 days, made even longer by the Dodgers’ constant retooling of the rotation. The bad news? Kershaw’s first appearance for the Dodgers looked like this:

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It’s not as if the Marlins have been particularly hot lately, going 7-3 in their last 10 games and placing fifth-lowest in total runs scored, but as with any return from an injury, it’s difficult to project any kind of success right out of the gate — even for the best in the game.

Kershaw delivered 66 pitches over three innings, getting ensnared in a long at-bat that was punished by a Jeff Francoeur double and even longer at-bats that, mercifully, culminated in several of the lefty’s five strikeouts. After J.T. Realmuto’s home run in the first inning, Kershaw let just one more run slip by on a line drive by Miami infielder Chris Johnson.

While Kershaw’s velocity was up, superseding even his season averages on his fastball, slider, and curveball, his command was shaky at best. Despite not allowing any walks, his belt-high sliders made easy targets for the Marlins’ lineup. It was hardly the dominant showing the Dodgers have come to expect from their ace, one for whom a nine-pitch inning is less of a fantasy and more of a reality.

Assuming that Kershaw doesn’t break out with another no-hit attempt in his next start, which should be Wednesday against the Yankees, the Dodgers are no longer in a place where they have to rest their hopes for a playoff berth on his shoulders. Getting a healthy ace back in the rotation on a consistent basis would bolster their place atop the NL West, but the contributions they’ve received from Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, and Jose De Leon should keep them in the running while Kershaw focuses on getting back to his usual Cy Young Award-winning self.