The Dodgers held a four-run lead with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, with a chance to return to Los Angeles needing only one victory to win the World Series and put to rest any questions of his postseason legacy.
Instead, he couldn’t complete the fifth inning, walking off the mound with more questions than answers with the Dodgers now one win away from elimination.
“He was rolling. He was throwing the ball well, good rhythm,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Those guys competed. They kept grinding and got the big hit when they needed.”
Kershaw cruised through three innings, facing the minimum nine batters while allowing only one single, needing only 39 pitches to that point.
Things went south in the fourth inning, which started with a walk to George Springer, who scored after a walk and an RBI double by Carlos Correa, cutting the Dodgers’ lead to 4-1. Yuli Gurriel followed by crushing a slider for the first of three three-run home run in a wild Game 5, which tied the score at 4-4, one of three ties in the game.
“I lost my command a little bit in the fourth inning, and that’s all it took,” Kershaw said, per SportsNet LA.
The Dodgers immediately answered Gurriel’s home run with a three-run homer by Cody Bellinger in the fifth inning, giving Kershaw another lead.
But after two outs in the fifth inning, Kershaw walked Springer again and then Alex Bregman, which put an end to Kershaw’s night. He walked three or more batters in a game just three times during the regular season, but has done so three times in five starts in the playoffs.
Both bequeathed runners scored when Kenta Maeda allowed a three-run home run to Jose Altuve, tying the score once again.
“Everybody did as much as they possibly could to pick me up. It’s a testament to our team, they battled really hard,” Kershaw said. “It’s obviously a tough one to lose.”
With six runs allowed on Sunday night, Kershaw has a 4.35 ERA this postseason, and has a 4.50 ERA in his postseason career. Granted, nine of the 11 runners Kershaw has left on base when leaving his postseason starts have scored against other relievers, including both runners left on in Game 5.
But there is no spinning how crushing this loss was.
On their third game in three days, and just two days after Yu Darvish lasted only 1⅓ innings, the Dodgers needed length out of Kershaw. He only pitched 4⅔ innings.
The Dodgers had leads of four runs and three runs with Kershaw on the mound, and he couldn’t hold the Astros down.
Make that 49-2.
Kershaw has allowed eight home runs in his five starts this postseason, more than any other pitcher in a single year.
Kershaw has had signature moments this postseason, including allowing only one run in six innings in the pennant-clincher in Chicago. He was brilliant in Game 1 of the World Series, with 11 strikeouts in seven innings.
But with a chance to pitch the Dodgers to the doorstep of a title in Game 5, Kershaw came up short. A win on Sunday would have silenced the vast majority of criticism levied against Kershaw for his postseason shortcomings. Instead, this just stoked the flames.
The series isn’t over by any means — the Dodgers are 62-25 at Dodger Stadium this season — but thanks to Sunday’s nightmare loss the path to a championship is much harder now.
“Everybody’s pretty exhausted after that one, emotionally and physically. You know what, we still have a chance at this thing,” Kershaw said. “We’re going to go home and be ready to go.”
After playing five hours and 17 minutes on Sunday — the second-longest game in World Series history — neither club will hold a workout at Dodger Stadium on Monday. Game 6 is Tuesday night, with Rich Hill on the mound for the Dodgers, facing Justin Verlander for the Astros.