The 2011 Cy Young winner hadn't pitched since Sept. 11 because of a sore right hip. He threw 20 pitches in the bullpen on Friday without problem.
The Dodgers lost to the Reds 6-0 on Saturday night, dropping them three games behind St. Louis for the final wild card spot. The Cardinals won again on Sunday.
Manager Don Mattingly said the decision to go with Kershaw was made following Saturday's game. The alternative was to start right-hander Aaron Harang on three days of rest. Harang was ready to take over if Kershaw had any problems with the hip in the early innings.