HOUSTON -- After Alex Wood's magic act, clutch hits from Cody Bellinger and John Forsythe, the three-run blast by Joc Pederson and all of the fist-bumps and handshakes, after all of the other Dodgers had disappeared into the dugout following an uplifting 6-2 Game 4 win over the Astros in
HOUSTON -- After Alex Wood's magic act, clutch hits from Cody Bellinger and John Forsythe, the three-run blast by Joc Pederson and all of the fist-bumps and handshakes, after all of the other Dodgers had disappeared into the dugout following an uplifting 6-2 Game 4 win over the Astros in the World Series on Saturday night, there was a brief preview of Game 5.
Clayton Kershaw took the mound and stared momentarily toward home plate, visualizing what it might be like to put the Dodgers on the precipice of a championship.
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"He's the best pitcher in the world, and he's been looking to prove a lot of people wrong for a long time," Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said of Kershaw.
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With this Series assured of a return to Los Angeles, the Dodgers are feeling better knowing Kershaw takes the mound on Sunday, but they insist there never was any panic, not even after Yu Darvish's rough five-out start in the Game 3 loss, not even when they trailed Game 4 after six innings.
"Not a doubt in this clubhouse," said Forsythe, who tied the game at 1 with a two-out RBI single in the seventh inning and was intentionally walked in the ninth and scored on Pederson's three-run homer.
This is what the Dodgers had to do, but they've been doing that all year. That's how you win 104 games and grind through the postseason to get to the Fall Classic. They reclaimed the home-field advantage earned with the best record in baseball and they did it with style, a combined two-hitter by the pitching staff with No. 4 starter Wood throwing 5 2/3 innings of no-hit ball before George Springer's homer in only his second start in a month.
The Dodgers have been tied in the World Series, 2-2, nine previous times and have won the Series three of those times -- 1955, 1965 and 1981. Overall, the World Series has been tied, 2-2, 44 times, with the winner of Game 5 winning 29 times. The home team has won Game 5 26 of those 44 times.
With Kershaw going in Game 5, the Dodgers like their chances in what has been reduced to a best-of-three series.
"We've got our horse going to start tomorrow, No. 22," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "I like where we're at. This Series up to this point, we've played four games, and there's been so many emotional swings, and we're dead even right now. And it's a three-game series, and we've got our ace going tomorrow.
"So I know that in our clubhouse we feel good. We're going to enjoy tonight. It was a hard-fought ballgame. But I promise you we'll be ready to go to win one game tomorrow."
Roberts also must feel good with Bellinger back in the hit column after a disappointing start to the World Series, with designated hitter Pederson doing what he calls "his best Big Papi impression" with his second homer of the series and with Brandon Morrow firing another 1 1/3 innings of lockdown setup work to get the ball to Jansen.
"And we'll get Kenta [Maeda] back," Roberts said of his newfound middle reliever, who has overmatched right-handed hitters throughout the postseason but was unavailable in Game 4 because he pitched 2 2/3 innings in Game 3. "And you look at how we match up and use our 'pen, and to have bridge guys to get to the big man at the back end is imperative. Today we did have [probable Game 6 starter] Rich Hill in the 'pen if we needed him. But the innings that B-Mo and [Tony Watson] gave us were obviously huge to allow us to get to Kenley. So if those guys can't do their job, it just doesn't work. But a credit to all those guys."
The only sign for concern came during the five-run ninth inning, when Roberts pinch-ran for third baseman Justin Turner. A sixth-inning grounder from Marwin Gonzalez clanged off Turner's left calf and it tightened up, so Roberts inserted Charlie Culberson, who scored on Austin Barnes' sacrifice fly.
"He just told me just to keep an eye on him," Roberts said of Turner. "And once he got to third base, I felt he went first to third and if there was a medium fly ball that Joc would hit or something like that, I felt that I didn't want to push him too much, make sure he's available for tomorrow, and don't want to put him in harm's way. That's it. He said he's fine and he'll be ready to go tomorrow."
So will Kershaw.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.