Kershaw faces Braves only 2 innings, leaves with back tightness

Clayton Kershaw left Sunday’s game against the Braves with low-back tightness. The three-time former National League Cy Young Award winner missed more than two months last season for back issues. (AP file photo)

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Clayton Kershaw left Sunday’s game against the Braves with low-back tightness. The three-time former National League Cy Young Award winner missed more than two months last season for back issues. (AP file photo)

LOS ANGELES— The Braves didn’t have to face Clayton Kershaw for long Sunday after the Dodgers ace left the series finale against Atlanta following the top of the second inning with right low-back tightness.

After Kershaw bounced a breaking ball to Tyler Flowers on a 2-0 pitch with two outs in the second inning, the left-hander threw a fastball on the next pitch for a called strike, then stepped off the mound in obvious discomfort.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a team trainer went to the mound to check on him, and Kershaw spoke with the trainer for a minute behind the mound, then threw two test pitches before continuing.

After walking Flowers, Kershaw struck out Matt Adams to end the inning. Upon returning to the dugout, he sat briefly on the bench, cap off and hand on his forehead, looking down. Then a trainer came and spoke briefly with him before Kershaw picked up his cap and glove and headed to the clubhouse with the trainer, a couple of teammates patting Kershaw on the backside as he slowly walked past.

Kershaw faced seven batters, struck out two, induced four ground-ball outs and issued the one walk. Neither team had scored before he left the game.

A three-time Cy Young Award winner widely regarded as baseball’s best pitcher, Kershaw missed more than two months last season for back issues and finished with a 12-4 record and 1.69 ERA in 21 starts, only the second time in eight seasons that he made fewer than 30 starts.

He was 15-2 with a majors-best 2.07 ERA in 20 starts before Sunday and led the National League in innings (139 1/3) and strikeouts (166). The walk by Flowers was just the 24th issued by Kershaw.

Against the Braves, Kershaw was 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA in eight career starts before Sunday including 3-0 with 0.60 ERA in four starts since the beginning of the 2014 season.