LOS ANGELES -- In a way, it couldn't have worked out better.
In a way, it couldn't have worked out worse.
Clayton Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers' best pitcher and arguably the best pitcher in the National League, is lined up to pitch Wednesday's season finale against the San Francisco Giants, a team that figures to be gazing ahead at the upcoming playoffs. He's no longer feeling any pain in the hip that caused him to miss a couple of starts. He's raring to go in a game that matters.
Just one problem: It probably won't.
Time isn't on the Dodgers' side, even if Kershaw is. The Dodgers have to somehow find a way to make up two games in the standings and then they can hand the ball to Kershaw, who looked as healthy as ever pitching eight shutout innings and striking out 10 Colorado Rockies in an 8-0 win Friday night. The worst part about it is, between now and Wednesday, there's nothing Kershaw can do about it.
"It's part of being a starter. It's definitely the hardest thing about it," Kershaw said.
The Dodgers' chances, according to ESPN's Hunt for October, are 3.1 percent. Of the contenders, only the Milwaukee Brewers (0.1 percent) are in a more tenuous position. The Dodgers' offense appears to have awakened just after the nick of time, scoring eight runs in three straight games after going a month scoring that many just once.
And so, now, all they can do is hold their breath and try to get through these next four, hoping desperately that Kershaw's final start means something. Of course, the Dodgers can't afford to think about Wednesday. They have Saturday first, then Sunday and, if they're still alive, Monday. If they have even a momentary slip, the only debate will be whether Kershaw should even bother to make that final start.
"We've got to keep pressure on St. Louis. We've got to force them to win every day," manager Don Mattingly said. "That's what we have to do."