LOS ANGELES -- Until there's a World Series ring on his finger, Clayton Kershaw will do just about anything to put one there, as he showed the Brewers on Wednesday.:: NLCS schedule and results ::The future Hall of Famer pitched like one in what could turn out to be his
LOS ANGELES -- Until there's a World Series ring on his finger, Clayton Kershaw will do just about anything to put one there, as he showed the Brewers on Wednesday.
:: NLCS schedule and results ::
The future Hall of Famer pitched like one in what could turn out to be his final Dodgers start, stifling the Brewers for seven innings on three hits in a 5-2 Game 5 victory at Dodger Stadium that gave Los Angeles a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
The series shifts to Milwaukee, with Game 6 on Friday (and Game 7 on Saturday, if necessary) and the Dodgers needing one win for their first back-to-back World Series appearances since 1977-78. When a best-of-seven MLB series has been tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner has gone on to win the series 42 of 60 times (70 percent). Teams leading 3-2 with Games 6 and 7 on the road have gone on to take the series 29 of 49 times (59 percent). The Dodgers are 5-1 with a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series.
"It wasn't as easy maybe as last year to get to this point," said Kershaw. "I realize we've got some work to finish it off and get back. It doesn't really matter how you get there, but thankful that we are here now, for sure."
Kershaw -- the Game 1 loser to the Brewers when he was charged with five runs (four earned) in three-plus innings -- rebounded like a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner. Kershaw said he wasn't thinking about Game 1, but his manager was.
"You could see the same look that you always see, there's a determination and when you get a champion like him that gets hit around a little bit, he's going to respond, and that's what he did today," said Dave Roberts.
Kershaw struck out nine with a curve he could throw for strikes and a slider that darted (season-high 19 swinging strikes), retired the last 13 batters he faced and rested a bullpen that was on fumes after throwing eight scoreless innings in Tuesday night's marathon walk-off win. Of his 98 pitches, 66 were sliders or curveballs. He also walked twice, put down a sacrifice bunt and scored a run.
"In Game 5 of the NLCS, we're going to have guys probably pitching out of their comfort zones all over the place," said Kershaw. "And that was evident today when they were prepared to take me out after five innings. It's definitely in the back of your mind that you want to try to go as deep as possible when the bullpen was taxed as much as it was yesterday."
Homerless for a third consecutive game, the Dodgers changed their offensive approach, putting balls in play, using the big part of the field and aggressively running the bases (steals by Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor and Manny Machado). Six of nine hits went to center field.
"The little things played a big part today," said Roberts.
After Lorenzo Cain's RBI double off Kershaw in the third inning gave the Brewers a 1-0 lead, the Dodgers tied the game on an RBI single through a drawn-in infield by Austin Barnes in the fifth inning with Kershaw's spot next and Yasiel Puig in the on-deck circle. Roberts said Puig was a decoy and he was sending Kershaw back out to pitch the sixth, but Milwaukee couldn't be sure of that.
"Kershaw was going to hit, we would have had a strikeout or infield groundout," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "We brought the infield in and tried to be aggressive there. So I would agree that that [Barnes hit] was the at-bat of the game. And I think that certainly we get to their bullpen and they've got to do some work in the bullpen. So that changed things, for sure."
The Dodgers took the lead in the sixth on RBI singles by Player Page for Max Muncy and Puig. They added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh on a Justin Turner RBI single and a James Dozier RBI groundout.
• Puig makes impact off bench in Game 5 victory
Muncy's one-out hit -- an uncharacteristic bouncer through the left side of the infield for the pull hitter -- scored Turner to break the tie and chased Brandon Woodruff, who had been pitching since the second batter of the game. Counsell used Wade Miley as a one-batter decoy starter to influence Los Angeles' lineup construction. Miley is expected to start Game 6.
Muncy's hit followed Machado being nicked by a pitch, and Machado scored on Puig's two-out single up the middle.
Kershaw -- who can opt out of the final two years of his contract after the World Series -- added to Dodgers postseason records for wins (nine), starts (22), innings pitched (140) and strikeouts (153). He's 3-5 in NLCS games and 9-8 overall in the postseason.
"It's just a classic case of he executed a lot of pitches today," said Counsell. "He didn't execute in Milwaukee and he executed today. I don't think it was a vastly different game plan; it's simple execution."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Kershaw said a third-inning, two-out strikeout of Jesus Aguilar that left the bases loaded and started the 13 straight outs was the turning point in his start.
"Any time you can work yourself out of situations like that, that's going to make or break the game," he said. "Minimizing damage as best you can as a starting pitcher is huge. In the playoffs you probably don't get many chances to work out of jams because you're going to get taken out of the game because the magnitude of the game is so large."
Kershaw joined Jim Palmer (1971 Orioles), Don Drysdale ('63 Dodgers) and Bill Dinneen ('03 Americans) as the only players with at least two walks (batting) and at least nine strikeouts (pitching) in a postseason game all-time, according to Stats LLC.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Barnes' single scored Taylor, who led off the fifth on an infield single, taking second on shortstop Orlando Arcia's throwing error, then stealing third base.
"Having the confidence and trust in your ability to get out there and know that the guy's a little slow to the plate and we can take advantage of that and to go on the first pitch was big time," said Turner.
HE SAID IT
"Just thinking that I have to get Woodruff out." -- Kershaw, who allowed a Game 1 homer to Woodruff, on what he was thinking when Woodruff relieved one batter into the game
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.