In the longest nine-inning game in MLB postseason history, the Dodgers beat the heavily-favored Washington Nationals on the road, besting the Nats' ace with an incredible patchwork of pitchers and unconventional lineup changes. I would call this the best Dodgers playoff game I have ever watched, but the truth is, I couldn't peek between my fingers for some of the ABs because I could feel my heart beating in my throat. But here's some of the scenes I do remember (along with plenty of links representing some, but not all, of the reading I did on this in the past 24 hours):
Joc Pederson's unlikely HR led him to run some of the basepath with his batting helmet over his eyes. Sure, Pederson ended the series with a .333 batting average and 3 RBI, and a 1.044 OPS. Though Pederson had 25 HR this year, his .246 BA (and 130 Ks--down from an astronomical 170 last year) always makes me disappointed in Pederson, as if the Home Run Derby potential is not going to materialize for us.
That said, Joc's big blast in Game 5 shut me up. It not only rejuvenated the Dodgers clubhouse and knocked Max Scherzer out of the game (arguably prematurely, but you can blame Dusty Baker for that), his trot around the bases, plus the fire and brimstone roaring as he came back to the dugout, really sparked the team from the dead.
Jayson Werth getting nailed at the plate was also big. All the talk here was about how Nats 3B coach Bobby Henley was foolish to send Werth home, given the lineup after him (Daniel Murphy was on deck), and the fact that LF Andrew Toles had the ball when Werth was at third. But I would argue that it was Baker's pitching choices in the seventh that doomed the Nationals, not so much momentum that carried from the bottom of the sixth.
Justin Turner is a force. The two-run triple in the seventh was huge, stoking the Dodgers to a 4-1 lead when Nats CF Trea Turner (and all his ballyhooed speed) couldn't catch up to Turner's long fly ball off the wall. But Justin Turner's 13-pitch AB in the fourth inning was the one that got Scherzer derailed, not to mention his pitch count inflated. That was classic JT ball right there, and as Buster Olney said, Turner stands to benefit:
When the at-bat began, Scherzer was in control of the game, and by the end of the at-bat, Scherzer and the Nationals were damaged -- and it was Turner who delivered the big hit later in the game, a two-run triple against Shawn Kelley. Turner is hitting .400 this postseason, with a .591 on-base percentage and .733 slugging percentage. He has a .444 batting average and a 1.295 OPS in his postseason career, and half of his 16 postseason hits are extra-base hits. On Saturday, he becomes the problem of Jon Lester and the other Cubs pitchers. He's also a free agent in a few weeks and is going to make lot of money.
Turner's 13-pitch at-bat against Max Scherzer in Game 5 was a crossroad in the game because it did two things: slowed Scherzer's momentum, and accelerated his decline. This was not a case of a hitter nicking pitches and merely staying alive; Turner was on everything. Scherzer was throwing 96-97 mph, had a great changeup and his wipeout slider, and he could not get the ball by the Dodgers' third baseman.
When the at-bat began, Scherzer was in control of the game, and by the end of the at-bat, Scherzer and the Nationals were damaged -- and it was Turner who delivered the big hit later in the game, a two-run triple against Shawn Kelley.
Turner is hitting .400 this postseason, with a .591 on-base percentage and .733 slugging percentage. He has a .444 batting average and a 1.295 OPS in his postseason career, and half of his 16 postseason hits are extra-base hits.
On Saturday, he becomes the problem of Jon Lester and the other Cubs pitchers. He's also a free agent in a few weeks and is going to make lot of money.
I still can't figure out Josh Reddick. Sure, he got the first hit of the game off of Scherzer. But when he plays right field like this, turning fly balls into heart attacks (and then acting nonchalantly like nothing happened), it's concerning!
Kenley Jansen dug deep. A career-high 51 pitches across three innings and seven outs? Unbelievable. Also hilarious was when the whole Dodgers infield gathered on the mound, and Kenley towered over everyone like a giant among men.
Broadcast line of the night was something about the in-game summary chyron being woefully insufficient to capture the drama of this epic game: "It's like reading the Cliff Notes for 'War and Peace'." If we could only have more lines like this, and fewer yips from Harold Reynolds about Julio Urias committing uncalled balks, that would be great. (Lots of loud blather from a talking head with a past history of alleged sexual assaults. Storyline sound familiar?)
You know what, just to piss off Harold Reynolds:
I feel better now.
Clayton Kershaw, the postseason monkey is once and for all off your back. If the post-game interview with Kershaw was an accurate recap of what happened, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts might not have known that Kershaw was available, until Kershaw saw Jansen enter in the seventh and realized that Kenley would likely not last three full innings. When Kershaw volunteered and made that walk to the bullpen, my pessimism set in as I envisioned another soul-crushing defeat. Instead, Kershaw indeed came to the rescue for the Dodgers, and then clinically proceeded to dispatch Dodgers (and Kershaw!) thorn Daniel Murphy with two pitches (pop out to 2B Culberson for the second out of the ninth), and then strike out poor Wilmer Difo on four pitches for the final out of the game (with an extra second of drama when Carlos Ruiz dropped strike three, then threw out Difo at third).
Clayton Kershaw earned the save, and the Dodgers' only wins in this series came when Kershaw pitched. Finally, October is good for Clayton, the best pitcher in baseball.
Last but not least, Dave Roberts is a madman, and a genius. It was a crazy chess match last night, and I couldn't breathe for like the last two hours of that game. But from the moment Roberts yanked Rich Hill in the third inning to bring on Joe Blanton, with all of us knowing that Julio Urias was also scheduled to pitch in this game, one realized that Roberts was going to be unconventional. And I've got to hand it to Roberts, his moves paid off. Earlier in the season, Roberts' moves thoroughly confused me, as he was trying to get a handle on this team while injuries beset us at a record pace. But putting in Jansen in the seventh inning was a stroke of brilliance. As was Kershaw in the ninth.
As was Austin Barnes pinch running for Yasmani Grandal (who has been awful this series, by the way); Barnes scored the go-ahead second run during our seventh-inning rally. As was Howie Kendrick PH for Andrew Toles in the seventh; Toles looked a little lost at the plate last night, and Kendrick singled and scored the Dodgers' third run (on the JT triple).
In fact, the only move of Doc Roberts that didn't work was swapping in Charlie Culberson, who entered the game to do a sacrifice bunt but failed miserably, and then was forced to play the remainder of the game (Culberson went 0-for-2 with a team-high 4 LOB). It lost Chase Utley from our lineup too early. But then, I suppose Utley (the Game 4 hero) is only batting .188 this series, so maybe it's not so bad of a call.
What a game.
One of the greatest games I've ever seen, said ESPN's Tim Kurkjian.
It's 1988 magic all over again, wrote Bill Plaschke.
It's a long road to familiar pain, wrote a Washington Post reporter (who was also stuck when the Metro public transportation line closed service midway through the game).
I am well aware we are huge underdogs against the Cubs, given their offensive juggernaut and our depleted staff and all that. But the last time we saw them was the 2008 NLDS, which involved the Free James Loney grand slam game. Come on, you remember this. Strange things have happened when we meet the Cubs in the postseason.
Let's go, Dodgers! Thong it up!