Legends On Deck

NLDS Game 5: Dodgers Pull Out All The Stops In Finale Against Nats

In the only one of the four Major League Division Series to go the route, the Los Angeles Dodgers Thursday night defeated the Washington Nationals, 4-3.  The Boys in Blue earn a trip to Wrigley Field where they will face the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series.

That is, if they are not too exhausted.

The contest was an all-or-nothing fifth game of the best-of-five series, and both teams went full tilt. Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts used 19 of the 25 players on his roster; his opposite number Dusty Baker, not to be outdone, used 22.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen appeared in the seventh inning to shut down a Nationals scoring threat, threw a personal high number of pitches (51), and in the ninth with two on, one out, handed the ball to… Clayton Kershaw.

The game clocked in at four hours, 32 minutes, which has to be a record length for a nine-inning postseason game with no rain delays or other non-baseball-related interruptions.

Initially the game looked like a tight pitcher’s duel with Max Scherzer cruising through the Dodgers lineup. Apart from a single Nats run in the second, the line score was all goose eggs through the first six frames. Then came the hour-long seventh inning…

How They Scored – Or Not

Nats shortstop Danny Espinosa singled in the second inning, scoring Daniel Murphy from second. The play at the plate was close, as the Nats second baseman went in standing up, showing off some fancy footwork to elude Yasmani Grandal‘s tag after the catcher snagged a throw from right-fielder Josh Reddick.

Dodgers starter Rich Hill (1R, 3H, 2BB, 6K) departed in the third inning trailing 1-0 with two outs and two on. Dave Roberts surprised most everyone by pulling Hill so early, though as the game two starter Hill did not have a lot in the tank. Right-hander  Joe Blanton finished the inning, then worked a spotless fourth before giving way to youthful but poised lefty Julio Urias.

The Dodgers continued a pattern of futility with men on base in the fifth as Yasmani Grandal fanned with no outs and two on, pinch-hitter Andre Ethier struck out with bases loaded, and Chase Utley grounded out to Danny Espinosa.

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The Nationals committed a base running gaffe in the sixth as Ryan Zimmerman doubled sharply to left field with Jayson Werth on first, two out. Third base coach Bob Henley vigorously waved Werth home, and the big left fielder was out by a country mile on the relay from Andrew Toles to Corey Seager to Grandal.

Joc Pederson tied the game 1-1 in the seventh with a leadoff home run to left, finishing Scherzer. The Nationals starter had pitched an outstanding game to that point but had accumulated 99 pitches. Mark Rzepczynski made a LOOGY (lefty one-out guy) attempt against Grandal, who walked. Veteran Carlos Ruiz, pinch-hitting for Chase Utley, singled to left off the glove of a diving Anthony Rendon, scoring Austin Barnes, who was pinch-running for Grandal. The Dodgers thus gained a 2-1 advantage on the substitution of a catcher for a catcher (Ruiz for Grandal), that scored a third catcher (Barnes – got that?). Justin Turner then drove a ball over the outstretched glove of centerfielder Trea Turner, who chased the ball to the wall. When the ball caromed past him,  two runners (Howie Kendrick and Ruiz) scored easily, the Dodgers third baseman had a triple, and Los Angeles enjoyed a 4-1 lead.

The Nationals answered in their half of the seventh inning when pinch-hitter Chris Heisey cracked a two-run home run to left off lefty Grant Dayton, making the score 4-3. Dayton lasted one more batter, giving up a single to Clint Robinson. At that juncture Dave Roberts called in closer Kenley Jansen for what appeared to be an old-fashioned three-inning save attempt. Jansen stopped the damage, but only after he allowed a Bryce Harper single and stolen base followed by an intentional walk to Daniel Murphy.

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Dusty Baker, with his team’s back to the wall in the eighth, called in his closer, Mark Melancon, with two outs to keep Washington in the game. Jansen came out for the eighth and allowed a leadoff walk to defensive substitute Stephen Drew, but then retired the side. After a clean inning from Melancon, the Nationals batted for what would be their final outs of the 2016 campaign.

Jansen fanned Trea Turner but the tiring closer began to struggle with his control, walking Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. That provided the opening for Clayton Kershaw‘s dramatic entrance. The three-time Cy Young winner, starter of games one and four in the NLDS, came in and calmly dispatched superstar Daniel Murphy on a pop-up to Charlie Culberson, then struck out pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo – the last position player in Dusty Baker’s arsenal. Just like that, a marathon classic of the National League style of play was over. The Dodgers prevailed in a one-game war of attrition.

Top performers

Max Scherzer: N/D, 6 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 7 K.

Joc Pederson:  2-for-3, HR, BB.

Justin Turner: 1-for-4, 3B, 2 RBI.

Winning pitcher: Julio Urias, 2 IP, 0R, 1 H, 2 BB, 1K. Save: Kershaw.

Losing pitcher: Marc Rzepczynski, 0 IP – responsible for go-ahead run in seventh.

Up Next: Game 1 NLCS, Dodgers at Cubs, Saturday, October 15th, Wrigley Field, Chicago, 8 p.m. ET

Featured photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images


Tim is a lifelong baseball (especially Cubs) fan, member of SABR, and player of Out of the Park Baseball. Recently he caught the genealogy bug and is researching his family history. He is originally from Chicago, but now lives in Columbia, MO, with his wife, two daughters, and two dogs.

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