WASHINGTON -- After six dominant innings from Max Scherzer, Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson wasted no time getting to the Nationals ace in the seventh.
Pederson tattooed the first pitch of the frame into the left-field bullpen, tying Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday en route to a 4-3 Dodgers win. It marked the first extra-base hit for either side in the game, evening the score at 1, and it chased Scherzer after six-plus innings of one-run ball. With Scherzer out of the game, the Dodgers went on to post a four-run seventh and held on to advance to the NL Championship Series vs. the Cubs starting Saturday (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, FS1).
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The rally followed a disastrous Nationals out at the plate half an inning before, and the sequence combined to turn the game. Jayson Werth was thrown out easily when third-base coach Bob Henley sent him home on Ryan Zimmerman's double. Soon after, Los Angeles had the lead.
Pederson said he went into his at-bat just looking to make contact.
"He's got a great fastball, and I was trying to hit the fastball," Pederson said.
Pederson's homer -- the first postseason blast of his career -- traveled an estimated 391 feet, according to Statcast™, and left Pederson's bat at 108 mph.
Scherzer said he didn't regret the home run pitch, which he located low and away, on the outside corner.
"The pitch I got beat on, I hit my spot," the pitcher said. "He put a better swing on it. I executed my pitch; he just made a great swing on it."
Pederson's homer marked a dramatic turn of events, as the Nationals appeared to be on the cusp of taking a two-run lead in the bottom of the sixth, when Zimmerman sent a double into the left-field corner. But Werth, who was on first base at the time, was thrown out at the plate with a pair of perfect throws from Dodgers defenders. Once they'd gotten into the Nationals bullpen, the Dodgers poured it on in the frame. Against five Nationals relievers, Los Angeles plated three more runs.
Pinch-hitter Carlos Ruiz drove in the first with an RBI single off the glove of Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon. The ball left his bat with a 106 mph exit velocity -- his fifth-hardest-hit ball all season. The hardest ball he hit all year came in Game 3, when he launched a pinch-hit two-run homer.
After Corey Seager flied to center, the Nationals went to right-hander Shawn Kelley to face Justin Turner. The slugging third baseman launched a triple to straightaway center, putting the Dodgers on top 4-1.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker said he never considered pulling Scherzer before the seventh inning, and given how Washington's bullpen pitched, there's little reason to assume pulling the starter would have helped. The manager also gave Scherzer the benefit of the doubt on the home run pitch.
"We've never seen [Pederson] hit the ball out in left field since we've played him," Baker said.
"It's easy to say after the fact. If somebody had told me and Max that the guy was going to hit an opposite-field home run, we'd have taken him out then. But how do you take out ... a guy in a 1-0 game?"
Pederson's home run was the first of his postseason career. He hit 25 homers in the regular season but only one to left field.