Down 1-0 after six innings, facing just nine outs remaining in their season, the Dodgers reminded us of a quote from manager Dave Roberts on Tuesday after Game 4.
“If anyone gives up on this team, they haven't seen us play a whole lot this year,” Roberts said.
True to form, the Dodgers rallied for four runs in the seventh inning, not only getting a dominant Max Scherzer out of the game but also adding three runs against a Nationals bullpen that allowed only two runs in total in the first four games of the series.
Then they held on for dear life.
Roberts used his two best relievers earlier than they have been used all year, because the situations dictated it, and then used his ace two days after a short-rest start to close out the series.
The result was an improbable, thrilling, absurd 4-3 victory for the Dodgers over the Nationals to win the National League Division Series for the first time since 2013. The Dodgers move on to the National League Championship Series to face the Cubs, beginning Saturday night at Wrigley Field.
On Thursday in Game 5, Scherzer shut the Dodgers down for six innings. They didn’t even get a hit until the fifth inning, when Josh Reddick and Joc Pederson opened with singles for LA’s first real threat. Andrew Toles added a one-out bloop single to load the bases, but Scherzer struck out pinch-hitter Andre Ethier and got Chase Utley to ground out to end the frame.
Scherzer struck out seven and walked two in his six scoreless innings, needing 98 pitches. But he was brought out for the seventh inning, and his 99th pitch proved to be his last, an opposite-field solo home run by Joc Pederson to tie the game at 1-1, turning this into a battle of bullpens.
But the Dodgers weren’t done in the seventh. First and second with nobody out brought up Charlie Culberson in a sacrifice situation, but he failed to get the bunt down three straight times, striking out.
With left-hander Sammy Solis coming into his fifth game of the series, the Dodgers countered with Carlos Ruiz, who homered as a pinch hitter in Game 3. This time, he settled for a single to give the Dodgers the go-ahead run.
Justin Turner followed with a two-run triple, continuing his torrid postseason, his 10th straight playoff game reaching base at least twice.
Those two insurance runs were needed because Grant Dayton didn’t have it. He faced three batters in the seventh, and didn’t retire one, allowing a two-run home run to Chris Heisey, pulling the Nationals within 4-3.
Kenley Jansen entered the game with nobody out in the seventh inning to protect a one-run lead. He needed 21 pitches to get through that inning, then pitched into the ninth, recording seven outs in total, throwing a career-high 51 pitches, leaving the final two outs for Clayton Kershaw.
Two days after throwing 110 pitches on three days rest, and with two runners on base, Kershaw somehow got Daniel Murphy out, on a pop up, then retired Wilmer Difo to end it.
The Dodgers got about as good as they could have hoped for out of Rich Hill and Julio Urias. That group, with Joe Blanton providing four key outs in between, got the Dodgers through six innings allowing only one run.
The Nationals scored in the second inning in one of the more frustrating ways possible. Daniel Murphy began things with a single, because that’s what Daniel Murphy does. But he stole second base thanks to a throw from Yasmani Grandal that was well offline, then scored on a single to right field, when Josh Reddick uncorked a throw up the third base line when any sort of decent throw would have produced the third out of the inning.
That was the only run allowed by Hill, who struck out six in his 2⅔ innings, lasting long enough to get through Murphy’s second plate appearance. Murphy was intentionally walked in the third inning, putting runners on the corners with two outs, and Joe Blanton made his earliest appearance of the season to get out of the jam by getting Anthony Rendon to line out to center.
Urias pitched two scoreless innings, got to show off his pickoff move to America, was the youngest Dodgers postseason pitcher ever, and became the youngest pitcher in MLB history to get a win in the postseason, 50 days younger than Odalis Perez in Game 2 of the 1998 NLDS.
NLDS Game 5 particulars
Home runs: Joc Pederson (1), Chris Heisey (1)
WP - Julio Urias (1-0): 2 IP, 1 hit, 2 walks, 1 strikeout
LP - Marc Rzepczynski (0-1): 0 IP, 1 run, 1 walk
Sv - Clayton Kershaw (1): ⅔ IP, 1 strikeout