Kershaw: 'All hands on deck' for NLDS Game 5

Lefty will be available Wednesday in relief of starter Buehler

October 9th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- If there is an upside to the Dodgers’ bullpen game gone bad on Monday night, it was this: stirred in the bullpen but didn’t pitch.

That means the three-time Cy Young Award winner is one of Los Angeles' pitchers who will be rested and ready to pitch relief in Wednesday’s winner-take-all Game 5 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium. Kershaw has done that three times before in must-win postseason games: A two-out save in a memorable Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS against these same Nationals, a brilliant four innings in Game 6 of the 2017 World Series against the Astros and a scoreless inning to close out Game 7 of last year’s National League Championship Series against the Brewers.

“All hands on deck, for sure,” Kershaw said. “I’ll be ready to go.”

The Nationals forced the NLDS back to L.A. by beating Rich Hill and five relievers in Game 4, a 6-1 Dodgers loss in which Justin Turner provided a lead with a first-inning home run off Max Scherzer before Scherzer and Washington’s bats both settled in.

Hill’s wildness aided a tying rally in the third inning, and the game turned sideways for the Dodgers in a four-run Washington fifth, when Anthony Rendon’s RBI single off Julio Urias gave the Nationals a lead and Ryan Zimmerman’s three-run home run off Pedro Báez bolstered it.

It means a rematch for the Dodgers on Wednesday night with Nationals co-ace Stephen Strasburg. Los Angeles will counter with Walker Buehler on extra rest and a fully-rested Kershaw, who moved around in the bullpen early in Game 4 to be ready to pitch at the back end of the game if needed. Kershaw then threw a light bullpen session in the top of the ninth inning when the Nationals had the game in hand.

For him, it was a tune-up for a relief stint in Game 5.

“Obviously, this game Clayton was available, and it was more of a situation in the sixth, seventh or eighth, potentially the ninth inning if we were tied or with the lead,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Obviously, the game got away from us, and so now to preserve him and to have him ready to go for whatever we need from him for Game 5 is certainly a good thing.”

The Dodgers entered the night hoping for 12 outs from veteran left-hander Hill, whose availability entering the NLDS was in question because he was limited to 5 2/3 innings since June 19 due to left forearm and left knee injuries. He wound up delivering eight outs on 58 pitches (32 strikes), many during a long third inning in which the southpaw issued three walks and yielded a 1-0 lead on Rendon’s sacrifice fly. After a walk to left-handed-hitting Juan Soto loaded the bases again, it was bullpen time.

Kenta Maeda was first up.

“With Rich, all night the depth of the curveball, it just wasn't quite there,” Roberts said.

“I just wanted to give us an opportunity to win,” Hill said, “and I think if I could have finished off that third inning, I might have changed things.”

Instead, Maeda finished the inning by inducing a Howie Kendrick groundout to leave the bases loaded before working a scoreless fourth with two strikeouts. The Dodgers went to left-hander Urias for the start of the fifth inning in his second appearance in as many days and third in four days. The workload showed. Trea Turner singled, Adam Eaton dropped a sacrifice bunt, and Rendon struck again with a sharp single over Corey Seager at shortstop for a 2-1 lead.

Urias retired the dangerous Soto but yielded another sharp single over shortstop to Kendrick and prompted a call for Báez, whose night began with the at-bat of the game.

Zimmerman’s three-run home run found the grassy batter’s eye beyond the center-field wall for a 5-1 Nationals lead.

“It was 97 above the zone, and Zim put a really good swing on it,” Roberts said. “The result certainly wasn't what we would have hoped for, but as far as kind of the process, I loved it.”

“It’s the same thing I’ve been doing all year,” Báez said. “Come in there with the mentality of trying to get the outs, try to do my job, and unfortunately, today he was able to get that high fastball and make good contact.”

Was Urias impacted by pitching on back-to-back days? Only three times in his career prior to Monday had he pitched on consecutive days, including a pair of one-inning outings during last year’s World Series against the Red Sox.

“I was ready to go in whatever situation,” Urias said. “I’ve pitched back-to-back games before. My arm was 100 percent, my mind was 100 percent. It’s just a situation where you can’t miss a lot of pitches, and I watched the video and I missed a lot of pitches, and I paid the price.”

Fortunately for the Dodgers, they did not pay a higher price. Báez was out of the game after 17 pitches, so he will be available in Game 5 if he is needed. Kenley Jansen was rested. Joe Kelly was rested, though his disjointed performance in Game 3 is perhaps reason for pause. Lefty specialist Adam Kolarek, the Dodgers’ best weapon for a big spot against Soto, was rested. Hyun-Jin Ryu volunteered for duty if needed after starting Game 3. And Kershaw is fully rested should an opportunity present itself behind Buehler.

“I don't know if that changes anything from the normal playoffs,” Buehler said. “I think for the majority I'm trying to throw every pitch about as hard as I can within reason and try to put it where I want it. So [Kershaw looming] doesn't change much for me, to be honest.”