Although the Dodgers managed to beat the Braves on Sunday (LAD 5, ATL 4), it was a bad day for them overall. Staff ace Clayton Kershaw had to leave the game after two innings with lower back stiffness. He missed two months with back trouble last season, remember.

The initial prognosis reportedly says the current back injury is expected to sideline Kershaw for 4-6 weeks, though he still has to see another doctor before the Dodgers know his timetable for certain.

The Dodgers currently have baseball's best record at 68-31, which gives them a comfortable 10 1/2 game lead in the NL West. They're in position to give Kershaw as much time as he needs to get healthy. The Dodgers are focused on October now, not the regular season.

Here, via SportsLine, is how much Kershaw missing five starts over the next 23 games projects to hurt the Dodgers:



Win %

With Healthy Kershaw




With Kershaw Injured








Amazingly, even with Kershaw sidelined the next 4-6 weeks, the Dodgers are still projected to continue playing at a 105-win pace. The rest of the roster is that good, and their organization is that deep with replacements in the minors.

Kershaw, 29, is 15-2 so far this season, and he leads all of baseball in ERA (2.04), ERA+ (205), and innings (141 1/3). Last season he threw 149 innings with a 1.49 ERA (237 ERA+) around the back problems, then went on to make four starts and one relief appearance in the postseason.

The six-week timetable suggests Kershaw could return in early September, which would give him a full month to get stretched all the way back out to 100-plus pitches, plus shake off any rust. It also gives Kershaw and the Dodgers some breathing room in case it takes a little longer than expected to get 100 percent healthy.

The Dodgers were reportedly looking for rotation depth at the trade deadline even before Kershaw's injury. With their staff ace sidelined, they figured to get a little more serious about looking for help despite that huge division lead.