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LA Dodger History in Winner-Take-All Games

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LA Dodgers have played eight prior Game 5/Game 7 since 1965

League Championship Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Milwaukee Brewers - Game Seven
Walker Buehler pitching in Game 7 2018 NLCS
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Today the Dodgers play Divisional Series Game 5 against the Nationals with the winner moving to the Championship Series. This is now the fifth straight postseason the Dodgers have played either a Game 5 in the Divisional Series or Game 7 in the Championship or World Series.

All together, the Dodgers have played eight such games going into today’s game, here’s a look at the prior eight starting in 1965.

1965 World Series Game 7 - Dodgers at Twins

After a tough pennant race against the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers lost the first two games of the 1965 World Series with both Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax taking losses.

The Dodgers would win the next three games at Dodger Stadium, taking the series lead after Koufax pitched a shutout to win Game 5.

Now just three days later, the Dodgers were tied 3-3 in the series, manager Walt Alston had to decide to use either Drysdale on what was then regular three-days rest or Koufax on two-days rest for his Game 7 starter. Alston chose Koufax.

According to Dodgers starting catcher Johnny Roseboro, Koufax ultimately used just his fastball to pitch this game. It didn’t matter. Koufax would pitch a three-hit shutout as the Dodgers won 2-0 and took their third World Series as the Los Angeles Dodgers.

1981 - NL West Division Series Game 5 - Astros at Dodgers

In 1981, the players had a strike that lasted from June 12th until the regular season games began again on August 10th. When the teams returned to play, they began the “second half” of the season that actually meant a split season where they would begin their division race again.

So the teams that led the two divisions, East and West, in the National and American Leagues, when the strike began, automatically qualified as first half division winners.

This led to a situation where a team like the Cincinnati Reds would win the most games in the NL West that season but since they did not win either first or second half, they did not qualify for the postseason.

Because of this split season, they had to create an additional playoff round that year, where the two winners of each division played each other, they called it the “Division Series.”

The Dodgers won the first half and they played the Houston Astros in this series. The Astros won the first two games and the Dodgers would come back to win the next two games to tie the series 2-2.

Jerry Reuss started against Nolan Ryan and for five innings, neither team scored. The Dodgers would break through in the sixth inning, scoring three runs against Ryan. They would go on to beat the Astros 4-0 with Reuss pitching the complete game shutout.

1981 - National League Championship Series Game 5 - Dodgers at Expos

After trailing the Expos 2-1 in the best-of-five series, the Dodgers won Game 4 to set up their winner-take-all game. Fernando Valenzuela had pitched eight innings holding the Expos to a run but that meant the game was tied going to the ninth inning.

The Expos brought in right-hander Steve Rogers to pitch the ninth inning. Rogers retired the first two Dodgers and then Rick Monday came up.

Monday’s home run would hold up and the Dodgers beat the Expos 2-1.

The Dodgers would go on to win the World Series bringing that trophy back to Los Angeles for the first time since 1965.

1988 - National Championship Series Game 7 - Mets at Dodgers

Orel Hershiser continued his 1988 pitching mastery with Game 7 6-0 shutout over the Mets to win Game 7

The game itself was not too suspenseful, the Dodgers broke it open in the second inning when they scored five runs to take the six-run lead. Hershiser would finish off the Mets with a five-hit shutout.

2015 - National League Divisional Series Game 5 - Mets at Dodgers

The Mets and Dodgers played their first winner-take-all postseason game since 1988 as the teams played Game 5 at Dodger Stadium with the winner advancing to the Championship Series.

Both teams scored in the first inning, the Dodgers taking a 2-1 lead. But then the Dodgers allowed Daniel Murphy to take third base in the top of the fourth inning and he would score to tie the game. Murphy would then hit a solo home run in the sixth to give the Mets the lead.

Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia would preserve the lead and the Mets would win 3-2 to advance to the Championship Series.

2016 - National League Divisional Series Game 5 - Dodgers at Nationals

The Dodgers had been able to stay in this game despite a short start from Rich Hill. Max Scherzer had held the Dodgers scoreless until Joc Pederson tied the game in the seventh inning with a leadoff home run. Then the Dodgers would go on to score three runs to take the lead.

After the Nationals got two runs in the bottom of the inning, Kenley Jansen would pitch 2⅓ scoreless innings leaving with one out in the ninth inning with runners on first and second.

Kershaw would retire Daniel Murphy on a pop out and then strikeout Wilmer Difo to save the 4-3 win.

2017 - World Series Game 7 - Astros at Dodgers

Of all the games covered in this article, this is the one that probably should not have had to been played. The Astros won 5-1, scoring five runs in the first two innings. And yes, Yu Darvish did not pitch well for the second time in the World Series.

But really, the Dodgers had chances to win Game 2 and Game 5 and the reason some think this was a great series is because the Astros mounted unlikely comebacks to win both of those two games.

2018 - National League Championship Series Game 7 - Dodgers at Brewers

Walker Buehler made the Game 7 start and Christian Yelich hit a solo home in the first inning to give the Brewers the early lead. But then two batters into the second inning, Cody Bellinger homered to give the Dodgers the lead.

The game stayed that way with Buehler reaching the fifth inning with the one-run lead. But with two outs, Lorenzo Cain doubled and the Dodgers brought in Julio Urías to pitch to Yelich.

Yasiel Puig would then give the Dodgers a four-run lead and they never looked back winning 5-1 to go to their second-straight World Series.