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Dodgers nearly blow it, but stay alive to force NLDS Game 5

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3-run lead erased but Dodgers beat Nationals anyway

MLB: NLDS-Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Utley’s RBI single in the eighth inning gave the Dodgers a 6-5 win over the Nationals, cutting through several narratives on their way to doing the most important thing of all — staying alive to play a Game 5 on Thursday in Washington D.C.

Tied at 5-5 with nobody on and two outs in the eighth inning, the Dodgers rallied in the most 2016 way possible. Andrew Toles, who was out of baseball working at a grocery store in 2015, was hit by a pitch, followed by Andre Ethier, the man coming off a broken leg, hitting a single, leading to Utley’s game-winner against Blake Treinen.

Ethier was in the on-deck circle at some point in all four games in this series but only announced one time in the first three games. And he was promptly pinch hit for, so Tuesday was his first plate appearance of the series.

The win ended what could have been a crushing day for the Dodgers, who got a brilliant outing from Clayton Kershaw but probably kept him in too long, only to see the bullpen blow their lead.

Daniel Murphy continued to produce for Washington, as did the top of the lineup throughout Game 4.

Kenley Jansen, one day after imploding in a non-save situation, was on fire on Tuesday, striking out two in a perfect ninth, and got Bryce Harper to ground out to end it.

The much-needed length from the Dodgers’ starter was in question from the start, when Kershaw needed 27 pitches to get through the first inning. That included nine pitches to Harper, resulting in an ultra-rare walk, just the 13th of the season for Kershaw. The walk moved Trea Turner, who singled, into scoring position, and Murphy drove him home with a single to right field.

The top of the order struck again in the third inning, with another Turner leadoff single, a Jayson Werth base hit that moved him to third base, followed by a Murphy sacrifice fly.

But after that Kershaw got into a groove, retiring eight straight at one point, including four straight strikeouts. Kershaw breezed through six and was allowed to bat for himself and start the seventh with a 5-2 lead.

Kershaw allowed a pair of singles in the inning including a ground ball to shortstop that Corey Seager couldn’t turn into an inning-ending force play. Then with two outs and Harper due up, manager Dave Roberts allowed Kershaw to face the potential tying run in a classic baseball matchup of the two previous National League MVP winners.

This conflict lasted eight pitches, and again ended with a walk to Harper, ending Kershaw’s day.

Kershaw set a franchise record with his fourth career double-digit-strikeout game in the postseason, one more than Sandy Koufax. It was the 14th game in Dodgers history with at least 10 strikeouts.

He struck out 11 in 6⅔ innings, leaving with a 5-2 lead but three runners on base.

But all three inherited runners scored, thanks to Pedro Baez hitting Werth, and Luis Avilan allowing a two-run single to Murphy to tie the game. All five runs were charged to Kershaw.

Kershaw has left a total of 11 runners on base at the time he left his 12 career postseason starts, and eight of those runners have scored after inherited by Dodgers relievers.

Murphy is 6-for-14 (.429) with six RBI in this series, and dating back to 2015 is 13-for-35 (.371) with 11 RBI in nine Division Series games against the Dodgers.

Joe Blanton ended the rally in the seventh, then retired the Nationals in thhe eighth to earn the win.

The Dodgers got to Joe Ross early with two runs in the first inning, thanks to a home run by Adrian Gonzalez, who before the game explained the Dodgers’ approach to the right-hander.

“We've got to be ready to attack strikes, and let anything that's down go, especially with Joe and his ability to throw that slider down,” Gonzalez said before the game. “You just want to make sure you get the ball up belt-high and let her fly.”

It was the sixth home run in 23 postseason games with the Dodgers, tied for third-most in franchise history. The only Dodgers with more postseason home runs than Gonzalez are Duke Snider (11 home runs in 36 games, all World Series) and Steve Garvey (10 home runs in 45 games).

Kershaw got things started for another rally in the third inning with a double, the first extra-base hit by a Dodgers pitcher in the postseason since Orel Hershiser doubled twice in Game 2 of the 1988 World Series.

That rally featured a bases-loaded hit by pitch by Joc Pederson, one of 11 HBP in this series, setting a new major league record for a postseason series. Pederson later doubled home a run as well.

Game 4 particulars

Home run: Adrian Gonzalez (1)

WP - Joe Blanton (1-0): 1⅓ IP, 2 strikeouts

LP - Blake Treinen (1-1): 1 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 2 strikeouts

Sv - Kenley Jansen (2): 1 IP, 2 strikeouts