The Dodgers staved off potential elimination with a tense, 6-5 victory over the Nationals in Game 4 of the National League Division Series. Starter Clayton Kershaw, pitching on three days' rest, was heroic for most of the afternoon before running into trouble in the seventh. Fortunately for Dodgers fans, 37-year
The Dodgers staved off potential elimination with a tense, 6-5 victory over the Nationals in Game 4 of the National League Division Series. Starter Clayton Kershaw, pitching on three days' rest, was heroic for most of the afternoon before running into trouble in the seventh. Fortunately for Dodgers fans, 37-year old Chase Utley came to save the day with a tie-breaking RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.
Before the Dodgers and Nationals play a winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday in Washington (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT on FS1), here are a few things you should know about Los Angeles' clutch win Tuesday:
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• Utley's eventual game-winner was the fifth go-ahead hit by a Dodgers player in the eighth inning or later in a game in which the team was facing elimination. The last player to record a go-ahead hit in the late innings of an elimination game for L.A. was Mike Marshall, who homered in the bottom of the eighth in Game 6 of the 1985 NL Championship Series against St. Louis.
• Kershaw notched 11 strikeouts Tuesday, marking the fourth time the lefty has compiled 10 or more punchouts in a postseason game. Those four starts place Kershaw in a tie with Mike Mussina and John Smoltz for the third-most of any pitcher in October; Detroit's Justin Verlander is the all-time leader with six postseason games with double-digit strikeouts.
Kershaw also generated 21 swinging strikes Tuesday, according to Statcast™, which were the most he has recorded in any postseason game in his career.
• Unfortunately, Kershaw also added his name to an exclusive list once again. A pitcher has thrown 10 or more strikeouts and been charged with five or more earned runs in a game only three times in postseason history. The first time was Randy Johnson in Game 1 of the 1999 NLDS, but the last two times have been by Kershaw -- in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS and again Tuesday.
• Kershaw helped himself when he led off the bottom of the third with a double and then came around to score on Justin Turner's single. It was the first extra-base hit in a postseason game by a Dodgers pitcher since Orel Hershiser hit a double in Game 2 of the 1988 World Series.
The Dodgers ace became only the second pitcher in postseason history to combine 10 or more strikeouts on the mound with an extra-base hit at the plate in a game in which his team faced elimination. The other? Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, who struck out 10 Red Sox and hit a home run in Game 7 of the 1967 World Series.
• Adrián González's two-run homer off Washington's Joe Ross in the first inning gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead, and also means the Dodgers have scored in the first inning in all four games of this series. It's the first time in Dodgers franchise history that the club has scored in the first inning in their first four games of the postseason.
Los Angeles' 2-1 advantage after the first inning also marked the fourth consecutive time the Dodgers grabbed a lead after the opening frame. That made the Dodgers the first team in history to lead after the first inning in each of its first four games of the postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
• Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was looking for Kershaw to go deep into Tuesday's ballgame after he used eight pitchers to get through Game 3. It looked as if Kershaw would struggle with that task when he needed 27 pitches to get through the first inning -- the most he's thrown in any first inning this season. The Dodgers ace turned it around from there, however, needing only 62 pitches (or roughly 12 deliveries per inning) to complete the second through sixth innings.
• Things took a turn for Kershaw in the seventh inning, which saw him put two of the first four batters he faced on base. With two outs, Roberts opted to keep Kershaw in to face Washington star Bryce Harper, who walked after an eight-pitch battle to knock Kershaw out of the game. Prior to that at-bat, Harper was just 2-for-20 lifetime against Kershaw in the regular season and postseason with 12 strikeouts.
• Roberts finally went to his bullpen after Harper's walk, bringing in Pedro Báez to relieve Kershaw with the bases loaded. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Baez hit Jayson Werth on his first and only pitch of the ballgame to drive in the Nationals' third run of the afternoon. Roberts then immediately replaced Baez, making the Dodgers reliever only the second pitcher in postseason history to hit a batter on his only pitch in a game. The first was the Angels' Gary Lucas, who hit Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS.
Baez's hit-by-pitch continued a running theme in this NLDS. By the end of Tuesday's game, a staggering 11 batters had been hit by a pitch, setting a new record for the most in any postseason series. The previous record was 10 hit batsmen in the 1909 World Series and the 2010 NLCS. The Nationals hit four Dodgers hitters Tuesday, also setting a new postseason record.
Baez's pitch that hit Werth marked the second hit batsman with the bases loaded Tuesday, making Game 4 the first contest in postseason history to feature two bases-loaded hit-by-pitches.
• Luis Avilán was the next pitcher up after Baez for the Dodgers, but he would also last just one batter as Daniel Murphy stung Los Angeles once again with a two-run, game-tying single. It was Murphy's 17th RBI through 18 postseason games, giving him the second-most RBIs by an NL player through his first 18 October contests. Only David Freese (21) tallied more.
Murphy finished the game with four RBIs, which set a Nationals record for a postseason game. Murphy went 1-for-2 with two RBIs against Kershaw on Tuesday, and he is now 4-for-11 with two home runs in four matchups against the Los Angeles ace over the last two postseasons.
In nine postseason games against the Dodgers over the past two years, Murphy has gone a combined 13-for-34 (.382) with three home runs, seven runs scored and 11 RBIs.
• Nationals manager Dusty Baker is still trying to shake an unfortunate streak, as his teams have now lost the past 10 games in which they had a chance to win a postseason series. The streak encompasses Baker's tenures with the Reds, Cubs and Giants, stretching back to when San Francisco could not capitalize on a 3-2 lead in the 2002 World Series.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.