Dodgers win and head to Chicago for NLCS

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In one of the most remarkable games in recent MLB postseason history, the Los Angeles Dodgers pulled out a win against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. This was a game which saw Nationals ace Max Scherzer pitch six-plus innings, allowing just one run to score — an opposite field homerun by Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, only the second time all season Pederson has sent a homer to left field.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner

The Dodgers had gone through their bullpen pretty quick. Starter Rich Hill lasted just 2.2 innings, giving up three hits and one run. Joe Blanton relieved Hill, throwing 1.1 innings before manager Dave Roberts called on the young rookie Julio Urías who pitched two innings, and he picked off Bryce Harper at first, who he had walked just moments before.

In the bottom of the sixth a bad decision by Nationals third base coach Bob Henley to wave Jayson Werth home from first after Ryan Zimmerman doubled to left ended the inning for the Nationals and their chances of putting another run across the plate. Outfielder Andrew Toles’ throw to shortstop Corey Seager was perfect and Seager’s throw to catcher Yasmani Grandal beat Werth by at least 30 feet.

In the top of the seventh Los Angeles broke the game open. Pederson homered, prompting a pitching change for Washington. Marc Rzepczynski came in for Scherzer. Grandal got on base with a walk, at which time Nationals manager Dusty Baker made another pitching change. Blake Treinen relieved Rzepczynski and gave up a single to Howie Kendrick. Then Charlie Culberson came to the plate to hit for Urías and catcher Austin Barnes relieved Grandal on second, which prompted another pitching change for the Nationals. Sammy Solis relieved Treinen and then gave up an RBI single to the Dodgers’ third catcher Carlos Ruiz, who was hitting for Chase Utley.

The workhorse of the Dodgers’ lineup, Justin Turner, came to the plate and tripled to deep center, scoring Kendrick and Ruiz. That put the score at 4-1. Dodgers.

Grant Dayton took the mound for the Dodgers in the bottom of the seventh, walking Danny Espinoza. Then former Dodger Chris Heisey hit a two-run homer, bring the score to 4-2, Dodgers.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw

Then the game really got crazy. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought in closer Kenley Jansen to finish the seventh. He pitched into the ninth inning, getting one out before Roberts called on the unexpected closer, Clayton Kershaw. After starting Game 4 on Tuesday, which the Dodgers won, Kershaw said he was exhausted mentally and emotionally. before Game 5 Roberts was asked if Kershaw would be available for the game and he said, “Absolutely not.”

But with the season on the line, anything can happen and every player needed to be ready. The Dodgers had used all three of their catchers, leaving Ruiz to catch the final innings. If something had happened to him the Dodgers would have needed to call on outfielder Yasiel Puig to catch.

Kershaw threw seven pitches to record two outs and win the game. He got Daniel Murphy, a possible N.L. MVP, to pop out and then struck out Wilmer Difo, who had played in just 32 games this season before Game 5. The Los Angeles dugout erupted and Ruiz ran out to the mound to jump into Kershaw’s arms.

When Kershaw saw Jansen take the mound in the seventh, he told Roberts he had an inning in him, if the manager needed it. As it turned out Kershaw was the right call. It was the first time in his major league career that Kershaw recorded a save. The last time he did it was in the minor leagues, in 2006. His catcher at the time was Kenley Jansen.

Now they will start the National League Championship Series against the Cubs in Chicago. There will be two games in the Windy City (Saturday and Sunday) before the series comes to Los Angeles on Tuesday for a three-game stand. If needed the series will return to Chicago for the last two games.

Below are two video reports from Claudia Gestro after Game 4 of the series on Tuesday.

Photos by Claudia Gestro unless otherwise noted.
Top photo: Screen shot of Clayton Kershaw hugging Kenley Jansen
after the Dodgers clinched the series with the Nationals.