After a hard-fought elimination game, the Los Angeles Dodgers advanced to the National League Championship Series. The NLDS between the Washington Nationals and the Dodgers was well-played on both sides, but the Dodgers had the ability to come back from adversity and a one-run deficit in the seventh inning to
After a hard-fought elimination game, the Los Angeles Dodgers advanced to the National League Championship Series. The NLDS between the Washington Nationals and the Dodgers was well-played on both sides, but the Dodgers had the ability to come back from adversity and a one-run deficit in the seventh inning to win an epic battle.
Knowing that the Dodgers had to win the game to continue their season, first-year manager Dave Roberts used his entire bench and asked his closer, Kenley Jansen, to pitch 2 1/3 innings in relief. After Roberts said that Clayton Kershaw was unavailable for Thursday's game, Kershaw retired the last two Nationals to send the Dodgers to Chicago. Kershaw hadn't pitched in relief since 2009, and he threw 110 pitches in his Game 4 start on Tuesday.
The Dodgers have been defying the odds all season. Not many teams could survive having 28 different players on the disabled list and win the division. As late as June 26, the Dodgers trailed the San Francisco Giants by eight games, and Kershaw had to go on the disabled list with a mild herniated disk in his back. He missed two months. The Dodgers' starting rotation was decimated by injuries. Sometimes Roberts didn't know who was starting until the day before the game.
The injuries to the starting rotation caused Roberts to use the bullpen a lot. Only Jansen had a defined role. This experience helped the Dodgers win Thursday's game.
The Dodgers didn't officially name Rich Hill as Thursday's starter until that morning. When he could only last 2 2/3 innings, they didn't panic. However, L.A. had to use Joe Blanton to stop the early rally, making him unable to pitch in his customary setup role. The 20-year-old rookie Julio Urías, who had not pitched in two weeks, handled the pressure of the playoffs beautifully when he pitched two scoreless innings, and eventually he was credited with the most important victory of the Dodgers' season so far.
Max Scherzer, the Nationals' ace, breezed through six innings, and it appeared the Dodgers' offense wouldn't be able to score enough to propel the team to the next round of the playoffs. Then, Joc Pederson led off the seventh with a solo home run. Washington manager Dusty Baker elected to go to his bullpen, which had the second lowest ERA in the National League, but this decision will be second guessed for a long time. When the seventh inning ended, the Dodgers had scored four runs, which were all the runs that the Dodgers needed to win. Justin Turner, who has provided much offense for the Dodgers all year, capped off the inning with a two-run triple. Turner always has performed outstandingly during the playoffs.
At first when Jansen came in, he didn't have his customary great control, but soon after he found it, and he lasted 2 1/3 innings. If Jansen couldn't have gotten the Nationals out in the seventh, the Dodgers wouldn't have been able to advance to the NLCS.
In recent past, the Dodgers have been criticized for not having grit. However, under Roberts, the Dodgers never stop trying to win. In this series, after the Nationals won Game 3, many people thought the Dodgers were panicking when they chose to start Kershaw on short rest, but they weren't. During Game 4, when the Nationals caught the Dodgers in the seventh, many Dodger fans thought the team would lose, but not this team.
The Dodgers will have an uphill battle against the Cubs, who look like a team of destiny after winning 103 games in the regular season. However, the Dodgers also appear to be a team of destiny, considering that they have overcome many injuries to get to the postseason. The NLCS may be epic.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at [email protected].