The thrilling and emotionally draining 5-game National League Division Series ended in incredible victory for the Dodgers after their 4-3 win over the Nationals on Thursday night. The game ended up becoming one of the greatest in postseason history and the Dodgers were on the winning end of it. The amazing seventh inning rally from the Dodgers put them ahead by a 4-1 score.
Joc Pederson’s solo home run that sailed into the Dodger bullpen knocked Max Scherzer out of the game. After a walk, a pinch-hit single from Howie Kendrick and another pinch-hit single from Carlos Ruiz, the Dodgers had taken the lead. Justin Turner smashed a two-run triple off the center field wall to give the Dodgers a 4-1 cushion.
The Nationals would rally off of reliever Grant Dayton. The left hander allowed a walk and then a two-run blast to former Dodgers Chris Heisey. That was the first pinch-hit postseason home run in the Nationals history. Once that happened, manager Dave Roberts was not taking any chances and turned to closer Kenley Jansen. This was in the bottom of the seventh inning with nobody out.
What transpired after that was simply amazing. Jansen was able to hang on and record the next 7 outs. He left the tying and winning runs on base in the seventh inning by whiffing Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon. He pitched a clean bottom of the eighth inning and then walked out to the mound to start the bottom of the ninth with the Dodgers still clinging to a 4-3 lead, and an NLCS berth on the line.
Jansen was able to get the first out of the frame, but tired and walked Werth and Bryce Harper to put the tying and winning runs on base again. The narrative throughout the series was that Clayton Kershaw couldn’t pitch in the postseason. Despite the fact that he won game 1, and turned in a gutsy performance in game 4 with 11 strikeouts in 6.2 innings pitched. Unfortunately Pedro Baez and Luis Avilan allowed all of his base runners to score once he was removed from the game with the bases loaded. Thankfully the Dodgers would rally to win game 4 thanks to Chase Utley’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning that tied the series and forced a game 5.
In 1988, the last time the Dodgers won a World Series Orel Hershiser gave them a super human effort to earn himself NLCS MVP. Hershiser pitched in 4 games in the series which included a rare relief appearance in game 4 in the bottom of the twelfth inning. The Dodgers won that series in seven games.
Flash forward to Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers in the 2016 NLDS game 5 at Washington D.C. With two outs remaining and the tying and winning runs on base Kershaw was called in to get the last two outs, ala Orel Hershiser in game 4 of the 1988 NLCS.
All Kershaw did was get Dodger killer and succubus Daniel Murphy to pop out, and then struck out pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo for the third out. The performance earned him his first career postseason save. Rookie phenom Urias was the one who got the win. The beautiful celebration continued with Clayton Kershaw in the center as the Dodgers had finally gotten the monkey off their back. The Dodgers are going to the NLCS to face the Chicago Cubs.
I see the comparisons between what Hershiser did in 1988 and what Kershaw did on Thursday night. If there was an MVP for the NLDS it should have gone to Kershaw. Who says Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason?