Kershaw leaves start early with back tightness

5:31 PM ET

LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers ace who has been at his best over the last few weeks, exited Sunday’s start after only two innings with what the team announced as tightness on the right side of his lower back.

Kershaw missed two and a half months with a herniated disk in his lower back last season, but hadn’t missed a turn this year and was looking like a favorite to claim his fourth Cy Young Award.

Kershaw was checked on by manager Dave Roberts and a Dodgers trainer with two outs in the top of the second against the Atlanta Braves, then stayed in after throwing a couple of practice pitches. Kershaw proceeded to walk Tyler Flowers, then struck out Matt Adams to end the half-inning and disappeared into the clubhouse, his 21-pitch outing finishing with two strikeouts, one walk and zero hits.

Trayce Thompson pinch-hit for Kershaw in the bottom of the second and Ross Stripling took over on the mound in the top of the third.

Kershaw entered his Sunday start leading the majors in wins (15) and ERA (2.07), while tying Max Scherzer for the National League lead in innings pitched (139 1/3). Over his five prior starts, the 29-year-old left-hander had allowed only two earned runs in 36 innings, scattering 22 hits, walking six batters and striking out 51.

Kershaw’s potential injury comes as rumors spread that the Dodgers were showing interest in Rangers ace Yu Darvish, with a little more than a week left until the non-waiver trade deadline. Los Angeles, with a Major League-leading 67 wins and plus-173 run-differential, is expected to get a sixth starter with Hyun-Jin Ryu coming off the disabled list this coming week.


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