Making his first North American start this season, Kershaw looks for a fourth straight winning outing over the host Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.Kershaw (1-0, 1.35 ERA) allowed a run, five hits and struck out seven with a walk in 6 2/3 innings of a 3-1 victory over Arizona in Australia on March 22. In the process, the reigning NL Cy Young award winner strained the teres major muscle in his upper back.The left-hander allowed three runs, eight hits and struck out 15 in 10 innings over two rehab starts with Class A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga. He is not expected to be on a pitch limit Tuesday."I think he has peace of mind that he's healthy," injured teammate A.J. Ellis told the Dodgers' official website after he caught Kershaw's bullpen session Friday."That was his sharpest bullpen session of the year," Ellis added. "He was locked in. He seems ready to me."Kershaw gave up six runs in six innings of a 6-3 loss to the Nationals on Aug. 8, 2010, but has yielded four on three homers and struck out 26 with two walks over 23 2/3 innings to win his next three starts against them.He'll try to help the Dodgers (18-15) bounce back after their five-game winning streak versus Washington ended with a 4-0 loss Monday in a game halted 3 hours, 17 minutes by rain. Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa each hit a two-run homer for the Nationals (18-14), who avoided a third straight loss.Adam LaRoche added two hits to raise his average to .361 at home. However, the veteran first baseman is 4 for 19 (.211) with a double, home run and 11 strikeouts versus Kershaw.Ross Detwiler (0-1, 1.84) is expected to start Tuesday after making his first nine appearances for Washington this season out of the bullpen. The left-hander went 2-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 13 starts during a 2013 season that ended in early July because of a back injury. He's 1-2 with a 3.92 ERA in four starts versus Los Angeles.Yasiel Puig did not face Detwiler last season and it's uncertain if he will get the chance to do so after he missed the series opener a day after crashing into an outfield wall in the ninth inning of Sunday's 5-4 loss at Miami."He's not feeling perfect, really sore," manager Don Mattingly said about Puig, who went 0 for 9 with five strikeouts against the Nationals during his 2013 rookie season.Los Angeles' Carl Crawford had three hits Monday, and is 5 for 8 in three games after he went 4 for 45 in his previous 15 contests. He's 15 for 28 (.536) in seven career games at Washington.Adrian Gonzalez is 3 for 6 with a home run versus Detwiler, while Dodgers teammates Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are a combined 8 for 21 (.381) against him.
While Clayton Kershaw's return should have a positive impact on the entire Dodgers team, one area that should see immediate relief is, well, the relievers. The Dodgers bullpen has thrown the most pitches and innings in the majors this season but ranks only 15th in ERA. Kershaw had the second most starts of 7+ IP in the majors last season (25).
Since taking a loss against the Marlins on April 26, 2011, Clayton Kershaw is 12-0 in his last 16 starts against NL East opponents. Among pitchers to make at least 10 starts against the division since 2011, nobody has a better record than Kershaw (12-1) and only Jose Fernandez has a lower ERA or opponent batting average.