NLDS Game 5: Dodgers' seventh-inning rally pushes them to NLCS

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The Los Angeles Dodgers are heading to the National League Championship Series. Los Angeles had to pull out all the stops in order to advance, beating the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the National League Division Series 4-3.

The contest proved to be a stressful, back-and-forth affair. Early on, the Nationals jumped out to a small lead, and hoped Max Scherzer would carry them to a win. That worked through six innings. Scherzer was fantastic until Joc Pederson hit a solo home run to tie things up in the seventh inning. That chased Scherzer from the game.

At that point, all hell broke loose. The Nationals used six different pitchers during a crazy seventh. They couldn’t get the job done, giving up three more runs. By the time the inning had ended, Washington trailed 4-1.

That didn’t last long. The Nationals roared back in the seventh, scoring two early runs to cut the deficit to just 4-3. That prompted Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts to turn things over to closer Kenley Jansen early.

Jansen pitched into the ninth inning, but got himself in some trouble with one out. That’s when Roberts turned to Clayton Kershaw for the two-out save. Kershaw got Daniel Murphy to pop out, and whiffed Wilmer Difo with a curveball, sending the Dodgers to the NLCS.

• Offense was tough to come by early, but that didn’t seem to impact Joc Pederson. His seventh inning solo home run against Scherzer was huge for Los Angeles. On top of that, Pederson also singled in the fifth inning. He was the only Dodgers player to finish the night with multiple hits.

• Justin Turner only had one hit, but he made it count. Turner came to the plate in the seventh inning with two men on base looking to extend the Dodgers’ lead. He did not disappoint. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Turner drove a triple to center off Shawn Kelley, clearing the bases. The hit extended the Dodgers’ lead to 4-1, putting the game just out of reach for Washington.

• For six innings, Max Scherzer absolutely dominated the Dodgers. Over six scoreless innings, Scherzer gave up just four hits and two walks. He struck out seven. Scherzer was on his game early, working his way out of a tense bases-loaded situation in the fifth inning. His only blemish was a solo home run to Joc Pederson to lead off the seventh inning. That hit tied the game.

• The Nationals experienced quite the bullpen meltdown in the seventh inning. With the game tied, Marc Rzepczynski and Blake Treinen each put a man on base. Following a strikeout, Treinen was pulled for Sammy Solis, who gave up a go-ahead single to Carlos Ruiz. With two outs, Kelley was called upon, and gave up a two-run triple to Turner. The Nationals entered the frame with a 1-0 lead. By the time it was over, they were trailing by three runs. Five different relievers were used during the inning.

• It wasn’t a strong showing for Nationals’ base-runners. Daniel Murphy may have scored on a single to right in the second inning, but he would have been nailed at the plate with a strong throw from Josh Reddick. A few innings later, Jayson Werth was thrown out at home by roughly 20 feet as he attempted to score on a double. Both were brutal sends by third base coach Bob Henley.

• Anthony Rendon did not have a strong series, and this game was no exception. Rendon went 0-for-4, with two strikeouts. His biggest of which came with the bases loaded and the Nationals trailing by one run in the seventh inning.

Clayton Kershaw was used as the closer in Game 5 of the NLDS. (Getty Images/Rob Carr)
Clayton Kershaw was used as the closer in Game 5 of the NLDS. (Getty Images/Rob Carr)

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Roberts called upon Clayton Kershaw for the two-out save. It was a gutsy move, especially considering Roberts said Kershaw would not be available prior to the start of the game.

In the end, it worked out. Kershaw induced a pop out and a strikeout, picking up his first save in the majors.

The top of the seventh inning proved to be pretty huge, and featured a number of moves by both managers. Dusty Baker used six pitchers during the inning, while Dave Roberts used three pinch-hitters and one pinch-runner. Given the outcomes, Roberts’ decisions will likely not be questioned.

Baker, on the other hand, will receive a fair amount of criticism. The 67-year-old doesn’t have the greatest reputation as a tactician, and there was a narrative coming into the game surrounding how poor his teams have played in elimination games. It’s tough not to see him taking the brunt of the blame for this one based solely on his choices during the inning.

They’ll also be talking about Roberts’ decision to go with Kershaw in the ninth inning. It was a risky move, but it worked out.

It was not a good series for Rendon.

Dusty Baker’s teams have not performed well in must-win games in October.

The Dodgers will take on the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS. Game 1 of the series will be played Saturday, Oct. 15 at 8:00 p.m. ET at Wrigley Field. Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA) will take the mound for Chicago. The Dodgers have not announced a starter for Game 1.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik