While the banged-up Los Angeles Dodgers surely could have used Clayton Kershaw in their last game, they're hoping he - and Matt Kemp - are both good to go Tuesday night.
Kershaw is penciled in to start the opener of this two-game set between the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, who will be trying to avoid losing seven in a row at home for the first time in six seasons.
Scheduled to take the mound Sunday against NL West-leading San Francisco, Kershaw (12-8, 2.79 ERA) was scratched with an inflamed right hip joint and replaced by Joe Blanton. The change proved costly for second-place Los Angeles (74-67), which fell 4-0 after Blanton allowed all four runs in 5 1-3 innings.
"None of it made any sense for him to pitch (Sunday). We're really trying to put him in a position to pitch the rest of the year," manager Don Mattingly said of Kershaw, who's gone 5-2 with a 1.97 ERA over his last eight starts. "This is all about him having the best chance of being healthy the rest of the way."
A handful of games behind the Giants in the division but near the top of the wild-card standings, slumping Los Angeles could surely use another solid outing from Kershaw. The Dodgers have scored 11 runs while going 7 for 46 (.152) with runners in scoring position during a 1-4 stretch.
"Everybody wants to know what's going on, but I don't sit here and analyze every day," center fielder Shane Victorino told the Dodgers' official website. "We're capable of scoring five to 10 runs a game. We're capable of being one of the contending teams. I've been in worse positions than this and made the playoffs (with Philadelphia)."
While Kemp's return would seem to be good news, he's gone 3 for 30 since crashing into the outfield wall in Colorado on Aug. 28. The two-time All-Star missed the last two games with an inflamed left shoulder but received a cortisone shot Saturday and could play Tuesday.
Kemp has batted .315 with six homers and 15 RBIs in his last 14 games at Chase Field.
The Diamondbacks (69-72) went a division-best 51-30 at home in 2011 but are 33-34 there this year. Arizona, outscored 33-13 during its six-game skid in the desert, hasn't suffered seven consecutive home defeats since June 5-11, 2006.
The Diamondbacks went 5-5 on their just-completed trip, which included a four-game split with the Dodgers Aug. 30-Sept. 2. Arizona dropped two of three to San Diego over the weekend, going 3 for 30 with runners in scoring position after an 0-for-10 effort in an 8-2 loss Sunday.
"It's disappointing," manager Kirk Gibson said. "We've lost a lot of close games. We have been close to a .500 club most of the later part of this year and it hasn't been good enough."
The Diamondbacks will try to regroup behind the struggling Ian Kennedy (12-11, 4.39), who yielded five runs in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-6, 11-inning win at San Francisco last Tuesday and has gone 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his last six outings.
Kennedy, though, is 4-1 with a 2.82 ERA in his last six starts versus Los Angeles. He pitched 6 1-3 innings of two-hit ball with seven strikeouts in a 2-0 home win over the Dodgers on Aug. 30.
Kershaw gave up two runs and a season-high nine hits while striking out nine over six innings in that game. While Kershaw is 7-4 with a 2.45 ERA lifetime against the Diamondbacks, he's posted a 6.94 mark in losing his last two starts at Arizona.