NEW YORK -- The Los Angeles Dodgers thrived while Clayton Kershaw missed more than two months with mild disk herniation in his back.
Now Los Angeles will look to thrive with their ace on the mound in the final weeks of the regular season.
Kershaw makes his second start since being activated from the disabled list when the visiting Dodgers conclude a three-game series with the New York Yankees on Wednesday afternoon.
Without the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP, the Dodgers were 38-24 and only the Cubs had a better record from June 27-Sept. 8. During Kershaw's absence, the Dodgers went from being seven games behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West to five games up.
On Friday, Kershaw returned and allowed two runs and five hits over three innings. He threw 46 of 66 pitches for strikes, struck out five without a walk and has 150 strikeouts and only nine walks this year.
"He bounced back well," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "It was good to get him in the rotation and pitch. I think for us is the bigger question is how did he respond in the days following and outside of regular game soreness he felt good. So he's going to make his start and we'll monitor inning by inning."
Kershaw's pitch count will be increased but regardless manager Roberts is looking forward to seeing his ace.
"It'll be more than his last start," Roberts said. "We'll see. We expect Clayton to be Clayton."
Kershaw faced the Yankees on July 31, 2013 at Dodger Stadium. He allowed five hits in eight scoreless innings but New York scored three times in the ninth inning in a 3-0 victory. Kershaw also opposed the Yankees on June 27, 2010 in Los Angeles and allowed two runs in seven innings before New York rallied in the late innings for an 8-6 10-inning victory.
Kershaw has faced two Yankee starters more than 20 times and has done well against them. Chase Headley, who faced him often with the Padres, is 11-for-54 with 12 strikeouts while Starlin Castro is 2-for-23 with seven strikeouts.
Didi Gregorius, Brian McCann, Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira have faced Kershaw less than 10 times and are a combined 1-for-21 with eight strikeouts.
The Dodgers look to bounce back from getting shutout for the 10th time this season during Tuesday's 3-0 loss Ross Stripling gave up home runs to Jacoby Ellsbury and Didi Gregorius on consecutive pitches in the seventh and Jesse Chavez gave up Gary Sanchez's 14th home run in the eighth.
Those home runs helped the Yankees (77-67) win for the eighth time in 10 games. New York is two games behind Baltimore and Toronto for a wild card spot and four behind first-place Boston, which it visits for a four-game series Thursday.
"Each game probably gets a little bit more important, especially with where we are and there are teams who we do not control our destiny against," manager Joe Girardi said.
"This is lot of fun. This is what September baseball is about," Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia said.
Gregorius and Ellsbury did not start Tuesday but are expected back in the starting lineup Wednesday. The Yankees will be without Aaron Judge (strained right oblique), who will have an MRI and could be out a while.
While the Yankees will be focused on scoring runs against Clayton Kershaw, they'll hope Michael Pineda can prevent them. Pineda is 6-11 with a 5.07 ERA and still has signs of inconsistency even though he is 4-5 with a 4.11 ERA in his last 18 starts since the start of June after going 2-6 with a 6.92 ERA in his first six.
Pineda was an out away from qualifying for a win Friday against Tampa Bay when he allowed two runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings of a 7-4 victory.
Friday was the 14th time he allowed two earned runs or fewer but he also has allowed at least five earned runs in 10 starts this season.
Pineda has never faced the Dodgers and the only five hitters he has faced (Josh Reddick, Chase Utley, Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick and Carlos Ruiz) are a combined 3-for-16.