The Los Angeles Dodgers might be in first place in the National League West, but they've struggled mightily with injuries. Fortunately for L.A., the hardest days appear to be in the rearview, as their ace toed the mound Friday night.
Clayton Kershaw made his return to the Dodgers after missing more than two months with a herniated disk. Kershaw only made one rehab start in the minor leagues before returning to the majors, which might have validated Dave Roberts' decision to pull the lefty after just three innings. Hoping for a handshake from Kershaw, Roberts was denied as Kershaw stormed off the mound in disgust. The line for Kershaw: three innings, two runs, and five hits, but also 66 pitches as his night ended early. Kershaw didn't pass with flying colors, but he's back, which is the best thing that could possibly happen to the Dodgers as the playoffs near.
Here's what else is happening around the National League West:
Remember Andrew Cashner, Padres fans? It was tough to see Cashner leave San Diego for Miami back in trading season, but a cosmetic trip-up has put Cashner in a compromising position. See, Cashner's got a beard, and though the Marlins uphold a strict no-beard policy, the team let him finish out the season with his beloved scruff. Well, unfortunately for Cashner, the Marlins won't re-sign Cashner until the beard is shaved. Now, of course the Marlins aren't the only team in Major League Baseball that enforces such rules, so this could end up being a serious roadblock for Cashner as he looks towards free agency. The bizarre story took an even bigger twist when Cashner essentially made it clear that playing for teams that allow beards is a big deal to him. If no one's showing interest in the pitcher this offseason, it might mean shave or swim for Cashner.
Colorado's Tom Murphy has torn it up this season, as his alarming Triple-A statistics have landed him in Denver to finish out the regular season. Murphy is well-known for his different nature, blasting heavy metal and hard rock in the batter's box, a move not often seen in baseball these days. Murphy is highly touted as the catcher of the future for the Rockies, and after the year he's had, this guy's ceiling seems to be awfully high.
The Diamondbacks are taking strides to strengthen their roster for next season, scratching together a squad that gives management a chance to assess the future. Five Triple-A players appeared in major league games this week, and Andrew Chafin and Chris Herrmann were recalled from the disabled list. Righty pitcher Matt Koch is the only Triple-A guy to be making his MLB debut with the D-Backs; the rest have all appeared on the team at one point or another this season.
After what can only be described as a frustrating second half, the Giants leave a lot of questions as they tussle with the Mets and Cardinals for wild-card spots. This team once had the best record in baseball, but they've gone a dreadful 17-32 since the All-Star break. Read this account of why the Giants can be so maddening--the lack of ninth-inning comebacks, ninth-inning blown leads, and just plain, good 'ol ugliness for the Giants as time continues to run out.