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The Los Angeles Dodgers will play the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday evening. (Follow live updates here.) Depending on what happens in that contest, Thursday’s Game 4 will either feature the Dodgers playing for their lives or playing to even up the series at 2-2. Nearly as uncertain at this point is the status of left-hander Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw, who was scratched from his Game 2 start because of back spasms, was described as a “likely possibility” to start Game 4 by manager Dave Roberts, according to Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times. The key, per Roberts, is how Kershaw progresses over the next day.

The Dodgers could use Kershaw’s help regardless of what happens on Wednesday night. In 10 regular season starts, the three-time Cy Young winner posted a 2.16 ERA and averaged nearly six innings per pop. He also recorded 7.75 strikeouts for every walk he issued. Even beyond Kershaw’s expected level of output, the Dodgers would be facing a logistical headache if he proves unfit for action.

Presumably the Dodgers would run a modified bullpen game in Kershaw’s place, with rookie Dustin May likely getting the nod. The problem there is that May threw 21 pitches in Monday’s Game 1, and he would likely be limited to one time through the order. The Dodgers would, ostensibly, be without Alex Wood, who threw 40 pitches in Game 2. As such, they would have to string together a sequence of shorter relief appearances, which might not be a problem in a typical year, but could prove costly with the series offering no days off.

In other words, if the Dodgers want to win the pennant, they should be hoping for two things: a Game 3 victory, and a Kershaw start in Game 4. Otherwise, things are going to get dire, and quickly.

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