Los Angeles

Dodgers Force Deciding Game 5 after Dramatic 6-5 Win over Washington in NLDS

Chase Utley knocked in the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Washington Nationals, 6-5, in dramatic fashion to force a deciding fifth game in the NLDS.

It ain't over yet.

Chase Utley knocked in the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Washington Nationals, 6-5, in dramatic fashion to force a deciding fifth game in the NLDS.

The back-and-forth battle began with the Nationals striking first off Clayton Kershaw to start the game. 

Trea Turner led off with a single and after a nine-pitch walk to Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy put the Nats in front with an RBI single to right field.

But the Dodgers would respond in the bottom half of the frame courtesy of Adrian Gonzalez who has a postseason pulse that is unflappable. The veteran first baseman hit his 6th career playoff home run when he took Washington starter Joe Ross deep for a go-ahead, two-run home run.

"He threw me a fastball and I was ready for it," Gonzalez said of the two-run shot. "Thank God the ball went over the fence."

Washington would tie the game in the top of the third thanks to the baserunning exploits of Turner. The speedster once again led off the inning with a single and went from first-to-third on a hit by Jayson Werth. He would eventually score on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2.

Kershaw helped his own cause with a leadoff double--the first extra-base hit by a Dodger pitcher in the playoffs since Orel Hershiser in Game 2 of the World Series--and the Dodgers would once again regain the lead.

"I thought it was a fastball, but JT [Turner] told me later it was a slider so that's how far off I was on the pitch," Kershaw said of his double. "It was good fortunte that I found the spot to hit it."

After retiring the next two batters, Ross left a slider over the plate and Justin Turner singled to left-center to score Kershaw.

The wheels fell off for Ross immediately following as he walked the next two batters to load the bases and then hit Joc Pederson in the leg with an errant slider that scored another run.

"Ross lost where the plate was," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "It was a tough day for Ross, but it was big that Perez came in and got us out of the jam there."

Ross would leave the game after that pitch, surrendering four runs on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts in just 2 and 2/3 innings of work, tied for the shortest start in Washington's franchise postseason history. 

Pederson was not finished, and would extend the Los Angeles lead with an RBI double off the short porch in left field in the bottom of the fifth inning, his first extra-base hit of his playoff career.

"We overcame some adversity and that was a huge team win," Pederson said. "We need to carry over this momentum into Game 5."

Kershaw's kryptonite has been the seventh inning in his postseason starts and the storyline didn't change on Tuesday.

Danny Espinosa led off the inning with a single—his first of the series—but after retiring the next two batters, Kershaw allowed another hit to Turner and walked Harper to load the bases.

"Danny is a streaky player and hopefully he's getting into a streak," Baker said of his shortstops struggles in this series. "That was a big hit and beating that throw to second base, gave Murphy a chance to come up with some men on base."

For the third straight postseason, the Dodgers bullpen couldn't hold down the fort for their ace, and the house of cards came crumbling down.

Pedro Baez threw one pitch, a fastball that hit Werth in the elbow bringing a run home. Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts then went to the lefty in Luis Avilan to face left-handed hitting Daniel Murphy.

"I looked at who we had, and Clayton was our best option against Harper," Roberts said of his decision making in the seventh inning. "It was a great battle between those two guys. At that point in time, I wanted to get the right-hander on Werth and the left-hander on Murphy."

The clutch postseason hitter promptly lined a two-run single into centerfield and the Nationals tied the game at 5-5. All five runs were charged to Kershaw. The two runs knocked in by Murphy gave him four RBI, a single-game franchise record.

Kershaw left with the lead, but would not factor in the decision, allowing a season-high five runs on seven hits with two walks and 11 strikeouts in 6 and 2/3 innings as he made his fourth straight postseason start on three days rest. 

"I'm exhausted. Just physically and mentally drained, but we get to live another day," Kershaw said following the conclusion of the classic. "I'm thankful that we pulled it out."

The deflated Dodger Stadium crowd was ready to erupt by the time the eighth inning rolled around, and they needed something to rally behind. Thankfully, Utley heard their call, and delivered in the clutch, knocking in the winning run with two outs and runners at first and second.

"I was trying to put the ball in play, especially with two strikes and a man on second base," Utley would say after the game. "I was able to sneak one through the infield. Obviously it was a big hit for us, but there were a lot of great at-bats today."

The go-ahead RBI single was the first of it's kind hit by Utley in the 8th inning or later in his entire postseason career. 

After a disastrous outing only a day earlier, Kenley Jansen recorded his second save of the postseason with a perfect ninth inning on Tuesday.

Los Angeles will now head back to Washington D.C. for the fifth and deciding game on Thursday at Nationals Park. Rich Hill is expect to start for the Dodgers on three days rest.

Players of the Game:

Chase Utley:  Game-winning single.
Adrian Gonzalez: Two-run home run.
Daniel Murphy: 2-for-3 with 4 RBI.

Three Takeaways:

1. No Rest for the Weary: Clayton Kershaw made his fourth consecutive postseason start on three days rest. Overall, the numbers suggest that starting on short rest doesn't work. However, entering the game, Kershaw had a 1.89 ERA with a 0.74 WHIP in such starts. Had it not been for the dreaded seventh inning and the let down of the bullpen, those numbers might have improved, instead they dropped to a 3.21 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP with six walks and 34 strikeouts.

2. Regular Season Kershaw > Postseason Kershaw: During the regular season, the Dodgers are a jaw-dropping 121-19 when Kershaw starts the game and they score four runs or more. However, they are only 3-3 in the postseason under the same circumstances.

3. Señor Octubre: Adrian Gonzalez hit his sixth-career postseason home run on Tuesday and is now tied for third in Dodgers franchise history with Ron Cey and Davey Lopes. Only Steve Garvey (10) and Duke Snider (11) have more. 

Up Next:

Dodgers (2-2): Rich Hill is expected to start on three days rest for Los Angeles in the winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday.

Nationals (2-2): Max Scherzer gets the start with an extra day of rest in Game 5 on Thursday. The start time is yet to be determined.

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