With his late-game heroics in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, Clayton Kershaw put himself in elite company with other aces who turned in iconic relief performances in the playoffs.Just two days after starting Game 4, the left-hander returned to the mound and secured the final two outs
With his late-game heroics in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, Clayton Kershaw put himself in elite company with other aces who turned in iconic relief performances in the playoffs.
Just two days after starting Game 4, the left-hander returned to the mound and secured the final two outs in the 4-3 series-clincher vs. the Nationals, extending the Dodgers' season with a trip to the NL Championship Series against the Cubs, which starts Saturday at Wrigley Field (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on FS1).
It was Kershaw's first save in the Majors and his first relief appearance since Oct. 21, 2009, when he tossed two innings out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Phillies, which the Dodgers lost 10-4.
:: NLDS: Dodgers vs. Nationals coverage ::
He became the seventh pitcher in MLB history to pick up a save in the playoffs on just one day's rest after a start.
• Dodgers pull out intense Game 5 win, thanks to closer Kershaw
Here's a look at a few other notable starters who pitched out of the bullpen in the playoffs:
Johnson was responsible for three of the D-backs' wins when the franchise took home its only World Series title in 2001. Johnson followed up a three-hit shutout of the Yankees in Game 2 by holding New York to two runs over seven innings in Game 6. The Big Unit returned to the mound the very next day for Game 7, tossing 1 1/3 perfect innings of relief as the D-backs walked off to dethrone the defending champs. Johnson was named World Series co-MVP with Curt Schilling. He went 5-1 that postseason, posting a 1.52 ERA through six games (five starts). But the first time Johnson entered a postseason game out of the bullpen was Game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series against the Yankees, pitching two innings in a 6-5 win that culiminated with Ken Griffey Jr.'s mad dash to the plate on Edgar Martinez's double.
Clemens made 35 appearances in the playoffs, but only one was in relief. In Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS between the Astros and Braves in Houston -- an 18-inning marathon, which, at the time, was the longest postseason game ever -- Clemens pitched out of the bullpen for the second time in his career. He entered as a pinch-hitter in the 15th, then took the mound for the 16th as the Astros' eighth pitcher. He tossed three scoreless frames, allowing just one hit and striking four batters, en route to 7-6 series-clinching victory.
The Red Sox overcame an 0-2 deficit to the Indians in the 1999 American League Division Series due in part to a stellar relief outing by Martinez in a winner-take-all Game 5. Martinez, who had exited his Game 1 start early with a shoulder injury, unexpectedly made an appearance out of the bullpen. Despite his limitations, he was his dominant self, pitching six hitless innings, striking out eight batters against three walks as his Red Sox advanced to the ALCS.
Bumgarner capped a historic postseason with a five-inning save in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series against the Royals. It was the longest save in World Series history and marked the first time a pitcher tossed four or more scoreless frames on two days' rest in a World Series Game 7 since Sandy Koufax's shutout for the Dodgers vs. the Twins in 1965. That outing contributed to Bumgarner's 0.25 ERA across five Fall Classic appearances, which is the lowest all-time among pitchers with at least 20 innings. He's also the only pitcher on record to earn two wins, throw a shutout and pick up a save in a World Series.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com.