Credit Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA — The last time Clayton Kershaw took the mound, in late June, the Los Angeles Dodgers dropped to eight games out of first place. Everything has been uphill since they lost the best pitcher in baseball.
To gauge how absurd that is, it helps to consider how overpowering Kershaw had been before sustaining an injury the team has called a mild disk herniation in his back. In 16 starts, Kershaw was 11-2 with a 1.79 E.R.A. In 121 innings, he had 145 strikeouts and gave up only nine walks. He still leads all pitchers in wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs.
“It feels like everyone as a group really turned it on when Kershaw went down,” starter Scott Kazmir said. “It was almost like we all came together and said: ‘What are we going to do? Are we going to just fold up and pack it in, or are we going to make a difference?’”
The Dodgers have surged since the injury to Kershaw, just as the rival San Francisco Giants have stumbled. With the Giants staggering since the All-Star break, the Dodgers had overtaken the lead in the National League West, a division they have won the last three seasons, heading into Friday’s games.
They have done it despite constant upheaval in the rotation. Since Kershaw last pitched, the Dodgers have activated Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu from the disabled list, only to return both to the D.L. They have traded for Rich Hill, the former Oakland Athletics left-hander who was already out — and remains so — with a blister on his left middle finger.