Now his team needs him again.
Last year's National League Cy Young winner will take the Dodger Stadium mound on Friday night against the Rockies, with every game crucial to Los Angeles' Wild Card hopes.
Kershaw could start twice more this season for the Dodgers, who beat the Padres on Thursday to pull within three games of the Cardinals for the NL's second spot. They also led the Brewers by a game.
Any combination of four St. Louis wins or Los Angeles losses would spell elimination for the Dodgers as they begin a six-game homestand to close the season. The Rockies come in with a four-game winning streak and lead the season series, 8-7.
Kershaw (12-9, 2.68 ERA) has allowed two earned runs or fewer in nine of his last 10 starts, compiling a 1.77 ERA in that span. But he also developed an impingement in his right hip, which led to the long wait before his outing on Sunday against the Reds.
Kershaw's five-inning effort was his second shortest of the season, and he walked a season-high five, hit a batter and threw 92 pitches. But he also held the Reds to one run and struck out five, leading first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to label him "incredible" for his "gutsy effort."
"I felt fine. Physically fine," Kershaw said afterward. "Obviously, I was out of rhythm, didn't throw many strikes, but it wasn't because of the hip. It was 12 days of not pitching. As much as you think it doesn't affect it, it probably does a little bit."
The 24-year-old reported no problems after a 40-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday, leaving him on schedule for Friday.
"If you hadn't known anything was wrong over the last two weeks, you wouldn't know," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's doing everything he would do after any start."
Kershaw will oppose a fellow southpaw Jeff Francis (5-6, 5.54), who is 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA in five September starts, allowing 34 hits in 21 1/3 innings. On Sunday against the D-backs, Francis gave up two runs in four innings, without a walk or a strikeout.
Rockies: Tracy pleased with consistent, versatile Pacheco
Jordan Pacheco played a big role in the Rockies' win over the Cubs on Thursday, going 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs. It was another strong performance for the 26-year-old rookie, whom manager Jim Tracy called "a model of consistency."
Pacheco is hitting an NL rookie-best .309, with five home runs, 52 RBIs and a .764 OPS while playing both infield corners and even a little catcher.
"So you've got a very versatile player who's consistently hit .300 for much of the year, line drives from foul line to foul line," Tracy said. "He's a special guy. He's a winning player. In the right scheme of things, this is a winning, championship-caliber player."
Dodgers: Kemp breaks out big
Center fielder Matt Kemp notched his second four-hit game of the season and first since July 28 on Wednesday, contributing two singles, a double and a home run.
He then went 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles and an RBI on Thursday.
Kemp had been hitless in his previous three games and was batting .179 with a .505 OPS and two homers since Aug. 16. Kemp's four RBIs on Wednesday were as many as he had recorded in the 13 games before.
Relievers Brandon League and Ronald Belisario have combined to hold opponents to five earned runs in their last 42 1/3 innings, an ERA of 1.06.
Francis has a 2.67 ERA in nine career games at Dodger Stadium. Kershaw owns a 1.73 mark in seven career home starts against the Rockies.
Los Angeles has taken four of six games from Colorado at Dodger Stadium this season.