Clayton Kershaw was activated off the injured list on Saturday to start the middle game of the Dodgers’ series against the Giants in San Francisco. Saturday marks exactly five weeks since Kershaw last pitched in the majors, sidelined by inflammation in his right sacroiliac joint, which connects the lower back and the pelvis.
Kershaw pitched four innings last Sunday for Low-A Rancho Cucamonga, allowing one run and striking out seven in his only minor league rehab start. Kershaw on Saturday is pitching on five days rest; he had four days rest only once in his first five starts this year.
In the days in between Kershaw starts, the Dodgers played 33 games, and given how the rest of the staff was used, he could have been reasonably expected to make five starts in that time. The Dodgers used Mitch White to fill in during that time, and also got spot starts from Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove — each making their major league debut in May — to help give the rest of the rotation extra rest. That trio made a combined eight starts, posting a 2.87 ERA and 4.46 FIP while averaging a shade under four innings per start, lasting five innings twice, with 32 strikeouts and 19 walks.
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Kershaw so far this season has 32 strikeouts against only three walks, and has lasted at least five innings in each of his five starts, averaging six frames per outing. Given that Kershaw pitched four innings last Sunday at Rancho Cucamonga, he could be reasonably expected to pitch five innings on Saturday against the Giants.
Saturday is Kershaw’s 51st career start against the Giants, and his 25th at Oracle Park. On the road in San Francisco, the left-hander is 14-5 with a 1.52 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 178 innings. That’s the lowest ERA at Oracle Park by anyone with more than five starts.
To make room on the active roster for Kershaw, left-hander Justin Bruihl was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Bruihl allowed three runs in his one inning of relief on Friday night, throwing 23 pitches. Bruihl has a 3.86 ERA and 4.79 FIP in 17 appearances, with 10 strikeouts and four walks in 16⅓ innings.
Bruihl held left-handed hitters to just .250/.273/.250 with no extra-base hits in 35 plate appearances this season. Right-handers hit .269/.394/.539 against him, in 34 plate appearances. This is Bruihl’s second time optioned this season.