LOS ANGELES -- One year ago, Clayton Kershaw was on his way to winning the NL Cy Young Award and the Dodgers were toast.
This September, the Dodgers are fighting for their NL wild card lives, and now it appears that Kershaw is toast.
If ever the twain could meet. ...
Though the Dodgers haven't officially deemed their ace lefty out for the season, the feeling around Dodger Stadium is that Kershaw's premature end is all but a formality. He was scratched from Sunday's series finale with the Cardinals; Stephen Fife started in his place.
With both Kershaw and Chad Billingsley out, the Big Man in the Dodgers' rotation now is ... Josh Beckett?
"Whoever matches up best," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Sunday. "For the most part, you've got to look at Josh. I think you have to.
"He's the guy who's pitched the most big games."
In four starts with the Dodgers since the trade with the Red Sox, Beckett is 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA.
"Our guys are all throwing the ball well," Mattingly said. "[Worrying about Kershaw's absence] is a little ways off, hopefully."
Kershaw is scheduled to see a hip specialist Tuesday in New York as the Dodgers start a key nine-game trip in Washington, D.C., against the Nationals.
Their ace is 12-9 with a 2.70 ERA in 30 starts this season. He ranks second in the NL in ERA, leads the league in strikeouts (206) and innings pitched (206 2/3) and is holding opposing hitters to the second-lowest batting average in the league (.212), behind the Nationals' Gio Gonzalez (.206).
"Me and Cap and Josh have to take the brunt of it right now," said right-hander Aaron Harang, referring to rotation mates Chris Capuano and Beckett. "That's fine with us. There's a reason you get extra veterans for this time of year. I thought Joe Blanton threw pretty well last night, too."
Already having taken a cortisone shot in the hip, Kershaw clearly and understandably is agitated with recent developments. He declined to talk about his hip over the weekend and mostly kept himself scarce Sunday.
"Clayton, he's battling," Billingsley said. "You always want to hand him the ball, and he's fighting right now to get healthy."
The Dodgers will find out Tuesday whether it's a battle they and Kershaw can win, or whether it's a losing battle.
"We're not going to panic," Harang said. "We know what we need to do."