The 2016 season was filled with thrilling comebacks, rallies, decimating injuries and incredibly exciting moments. Even though the Dodgers fell short of their ultimate goal of ending this nasty now going on 29-year World Series drought, the season was a memorable one. One of the most memorable moments of the 2016 Dodgers season was the 5-game National league Division playoff series against the Washington Nationals. The series was a back and forth nail-biting tightrope that the Dodgers eventually won. They had to come from behind in the series to do it though, winning the final two games.
With the club down 2-1 in the series, game 4 was an elimination game; (the Dodgers had to win game 5 in Washington as well to advance to the NLCS round) played at Dodger Stadium. With the Dodger’s backs to the wall they had little choice but to give the ball to ace Clayton Kershaw on short rest to save their season. We’ve seen this show before. Kershaw has had mixed results in elimination playoff games.
In 2013 Kershaw pitched game 4 of the NLDS against Atlanta. He came out after six innings with the score tied at 2-2 in a game the Dodgers eventually won, but did not factor into the decision. Then later in that same postseason he was rocked in game 6 of the NLCS against the Cardinals as the Dodgers got blown out 9-0. In 2014 he tried to save the Dodgers again against the Cardinals in game 4 of the NLDS, but gave up that home run to Matt Adams in the seventh inning. As Adams blubbered around the bases, our hearts went out to Kershaw.
In 2015 Kershaw finally prevailed, limiting the Mets to just one earned run over seven solid innings as the Dodgers forced a game 5 by defeating the Mets 3-1 in game 4 of the 2015 NLDS. Unfortunately evil Daniel Murphy’s stolen base, and sixth inning home run against Zack Greinke helped the Mets edge the Dodgers out of the postseason.
Flash forward back to the 2016 season and we have one of the greatest postseason games in MLB history. Game 4 of the 2016 NLDS was filled with everything. Ending with the Dodgers finally prevailing. How they got there was equally as important.
Opposing Kershaw on the mound was 23-year old right hander Joe Ross, whom the Dodgers had seen very little of during the regular season. Unfortunately Kershaw gave up a run before the seats were warm in the first inning. Trea Turner led off with a single, Bryce Harper walked, and Daniel Murphy’s single brought home the first run of the game
The Dodgers came back in the bottom half of the first to score two runs and take a 2-1 lead. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch, and then Adrian Gonzalez’s two-run bomb put the Dodgers ahead. The Nationals notched another run off of Kershaw in the top of the third to tie the score at 2-2. Trea Turner and Jayson Werth singled. Turner scored on Murphy’s sacrifice fly.
The Dodgers would bust out for two runs in the bottom half of the third inning to chase Joe Ross from the game. It was Kershaw himself who would start the rally with a double to ignite the home crowd. Then two outs later Turner’s bloop single knocked in Kershaw to put the Dodgers ahead 3-2.
Gonzo would walk, and so did Reddick as Ross was unable to find the strike zone. The bases were loaded and Washington would go to the bullpen early. Left hander Oliver Perez immediately plunks Joc Pederson to force in the second run of the inning and giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead.
Kershaw would settle in after that. He pitched a 123 inning in the top of the fourth inning, and pitched another 123 inning in the top of the fifth, (whiffing Turner and Michael Taylor). The Dodgers would add another run in the bottom of the fifth inning to go up by a 5-2 score.
Then heartbreak hit in the seventh inning. Oh that devil’s frame. The seventh inning is the Dodger’s postseason kryptonite. Kershaw was nearing exhaustion and was allowed to begin the inning. Danny Espinosa singled to start the frame. Kershaw struck out Pedro Severino for the first out. Former Dodger Chris Heisey (who homered in game 5) flies out and the Dodgers have two outs.
Then the wheels fell off. Trea Turner singles Espinosa to second. Manager Dave Roberts has a mound visit to talk to Kershaw. He does what former manager Don Mattingly did, leaving him on the mound instead of going to the bullpen for a fresh arm. Everyone still understood, I mean its Clayton Kershaw.
Then he walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Finally with the bases loaded Kershaw is removed and right handed reliever Pedro Baez is brought in to face Jayson Werth. Baez’s horrible reputation in the playoffs continued as he hit Werth with a pitch to force in a run. 5-3 Dodgers. The crowd was palpable as we could feel the room caving in. Another pitching change, lefty Luis Avilan is called on to pitch to the red devil Daniel Murphy. Roberts preferred the left on lefty match-up. Murphy immediately singles to center to drive home two runs and stun all of Los Angeles. The Nationals had scored three runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 5-5.
As the Nationals celebrated in the visitor’s dugout, the Dodger Stadium crowd sat stunned in silence. Kershaw sat in the dugout and ran his hands through his hair. You could see the look on his face. How could this happen to the Dodgers again? I quipped that it was like the Dodgers were in a bad episode of the movie groundhog’s day starring Bill Murray. They keep reliving the same Playoff hell over and over as stuck in some kind of loop. Once again Clayton Kershaw was unable to get out of the seventh inning and Pedro Baez and the rest of the Dodger bullpen allowed all of the inherited runners to score. What a nightmare.
The Dodgers got out of the seventh inning with the score still tied at 5-5. The Dodgers needed a run to break the tie and who better to come up big for them then a grizzled veteran of the postseason. The inning started with Joc Pederson striking out and Yasmani Grandal grounding out. After Andrew Toles was hit by a pitch, pinch-hitter Andre Ethier, (who still has it) grounded a single into left field. Finally Chase Utley would smack a single to right to score Toles and put the Dodgers back on top 6-5! Dodger Stadium went wild as everyone hugged each other and breathed a sigh of relief. The game was essentially over with super closer Kenley Jansen waiting in the wings.
Over the game was as Kenley pitched a 123 top of the ninth inning to tie the series at 2-2 and send the series back to Washington. In the end, Kershaw struck out 11 in the game, but was charged with five earned runs (all allowed to score by the Dodger bullpen). Dodger killer Daniel Murphy drove in four of the National’s five runs. Jansen recorded his second save of the season.
Of course the best was yet to come as the Dodgers awaited game 5 in the Nation’s capital. We all did too. The Dodgers always find a way to come from behind in 2016. This was one of the best games of the postseason and the number 2 Dodger moment of the 2016 season.