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Dodgers lose to Reds, ponder whether to start Clayton Kershaw on Sunday

A 6-0 defeat sinks the Dodgers further behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second NL wild-card spot, leaving them to consider whether it is worth it to send the ailing pitcher to the mound.

September 22, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez

CINCINNATI — Clayton Kershaw stretched and ran in the outfield at Great American Ball Park on Saturday morning, a slightly modified version of a routine he performs on days before he pitches.

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly later confirmed that the sidelined ace was "still in play" to start their series finale against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.

But after the Dodgers' 6-0 defeat to the Reds, the team's decision makers had to be asking themselves: Is it worth it?

To reach the postseason, the Dodgers will have to perform a minor miracle. With only 10 games remaining, they have a three-game deficit to the St. Louis Cardinals for the second of two National League wild-card spots.

Mattingly said the Dodgers' place in the standings would factor into the decision of whether to send Kershaw to the mound Sunday.

The orthopaedic surgeon Kershaw visited Tuesday told him that he wouldn't further damage his ailing right hip by pitching. But the injury appears to be serious, as Kershaw and the Dodgers still won't say if he might have to undergo an operation in the off-season.

Here's something else for the Dodgers to consider: They haven't lost 11 of their last 16 games because of their pitching. They have lost because they can't hit.

The latest example came Saturday.

Rookie Stephen Fife pitched reasonably well, limiting the Reds to two runs over the first five innings. Through six innings, the Dodgers trailed, 2-0.

But their lineup never gave them a chance, as Mat Latos (13-4) didn't allow any Dodger to reach scoring position over his eighth innings on the mound.

"We've talked about it quite a bit," Mattingly said. "If you don't score, you're not going to win."

The Dodgers have played 26 games since they added Adrian Gonzalez in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox late last month. They have scored two runs or less in half of them.

The Dodgers could postpone Kershaw's start until the next series, which is in San Diego.

The Dodgers could be out of contention by then, of course.

Under that scenario, the earliest Kershaw could pitch would be Wednesday. The Dodgers have a day off Monday and are committed to starting Josh Beckett on Tuesday.

And if Kershaw doesn't pitch the final game in Cincinnati, Aaron Harang will.

Harang will be pitching on three days' rest, the result of a rainout in Washington during the trip.

Harang once tossed a shutout on short rest. But that was in 2006, when he was 27. And the start was in April, long before the rigors of a season take their toll on an arm.

Harang pitched on short rest two other times. He pitched a combined nine innings in those two games and was charged with 11 runs.

In other words, the Dodgers' chance of winning will be severely compromised if Harang faces his former team Sunday.

Kershaw didn't say much Saturday, maintaining his personal policy of speaking as little about his injuries as possible.

Kershaw wouldn't even acknowledge that he was aiming for a Sunday start.

"I'm preparing myself to start," Kershaw said. "I don't know when."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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