Recalling details from the Dodgers' come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night, Manager Don Mattingly had to fight back tears.
There was Luis Cruz's two-out double that tied the score in the ninth inning and Juan Rivera's follow-up single that won it. But the play that made Mattingly particularly emotional was a play Matt Kemp made on defense in the top of that inning, on which he crashed into the center field wall, fell down, chased down the ball and threw out Yadier Molina at third base to prevent a triple.
"It really chokes me up," Mattingly said. "That's total not wanting to lose."
That resolve will be tested again Sunday.
Clayton Kershaw won't be taking the mound for the Dodgers, who will enter the series finale at Dodger Stadium tied with the Cardinals for the second of two National League wild-card spots.
In fact, Kershaw might not take the mound for them again this year.
Taking Kershaw's place will be rookie Stephen Fife, who has three major league starts.
The day that produced the Dodgers' most emotional victory of the season started with the team receiving the frightening news that Kershaw had a Tuesday appointment with a hip surgeon in New York.
The Dodgers wouldn't comment on the possibility that Kershaw might be forced to have an operation.
Mattingly sounded as if he was preparing himself to be without the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner for the remainder of the season. The rotation has already lost Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly to season-ending surgeries.
Mattingly said he won't let Kershaw return to the mound if Dr. Bryan Kelly determines there is any chance Kershaw can damage his hip by pitching
Even if it's the last game of the season with a playoff berth at stake?
"He won't pitch," Mattingly said. "I promise you that."
Even if Kershaw insists on pitching?
"He's not pitching," Mattingly said.
Kershaw, 24, is too valuable to the future of the Dodgers.
One person familiar with Kershaw's situation said the Dodgers expect Kershaw to pitch next season, regardless of what Kelly discovers in his hip and determines is the best course of treatment.
Kershaw declined to speak to reporters, as did trainer Sue Falsone.
Kershaw didn't throw his scheduled bullpen session Thursday and cut short a throwing session Friday. He didn't protest the decision to scratch him from his start.
"He's still feeling it, knowing that he can't really extend the leg at all," Mattingly said. "He knows he can't pitch with this."
Kershaw's schedule has already been altered once because of the problems with the hip.
Originally scheduled to pitch in San Francisco on Sept. 9, he pitched two days later in Arizona instead. Kershaw lost but was spectacular against the Diamondbacks, as he was charged with only one unearned run over seven innings.
"But that was with a cortisone shot," Mattingly said. "That's a pretty good masking agent. … Obviously, something's wrong enough that it's not bouncing back."
Kershaw is 12-9 with a 2.70 earned-run average. Even though he isn't as dominant as he was last season, he remains the Dodgers' undisputed ace.
The remainder of their rotation consists of back-end starters: Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Joe Blanton.
Blanton took his turn on the mound Saturday, four days after his wife delivered their third child.
Blanton had a performance typical of him, giving up three runs and four hits in 52/3 innings. He departed with the Dodgers trailing, 3-2.
Facing closer Jason Motte, Andre Ethier started the comeback with a single to right field. Dee Gordon pinch-ran for Ethier and promptly stole second base, setting up a run-scoring double by Cruz.
Elian Herrera, who pinch-ran for Cruz, scored the winning run when second baseman Daniel Descalso failed to snag a line drive by Rivera and allowed it to fall into shallow center field.