The 2016 NLDS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals took a back seat to the rest of league when it came to TV scheduling, having only one game scheduled in prime time. Lucky for baseball, that sole game was also a game five elimination game, and closed out an exciting series as the Dodgers beat the Nationals for their first trip to the NLCS since 2013.
Dodgers Beat Nationals in Five
Sending regular season ace, but riddled postseason pitcher Clayton Kershaw, to the mound, the Dodgers were able to squeeze out a key road victory against Nationals ace Max Scherzer. The win did not come easy for Kershaw, who was hoping to debunk previous postseason history, in which he routinely struggled. The expected high-profile pitching match became rather offensive, with the Corey Seager and Justin Turner homering for Los Angeles, and the final score ending with Kershaw and the Dodgers on top 4-3.
Game two was played a day later than scheduled due to a rain out. Midseason acquisition and near perfect game-pitcher from Rich Hill faced Tanner Roark. Roark allowed the Dodgers to strike early, but eventually combined with five other Washington pitchers to shut down the Los Angeles offense.
Daniel Murphy, who haunted the Dodgers as a New York Met in 2015 NLDS, went 3-3 on the day with 2 RBI, and Jose Lobaton hit a three-run home that gave the Nationals the 5-2 victory heading into Monday’s game in Los Angeles.
Without the benefit of a day in between travel due to Saturday’s rain delay, the Dodgers and Nationals played game three of the series less than 24 hours after gem two ended across the country.
Kenta Maeda, who was the Dodgers biggest signing in the offseason as far as starting pitching was concerned, got the nod against Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez. Maeda got rocked early on, mirroring a performance he had in his last start before postseason against the San Francisco Giants; he gave up four runs and was forced to exit after just three innings.
The Dodgers, who were at the bottom of league against lefties all regular season, struggled against Gonzalez until the fifth, when they were able to push him out of the game with three earned runs. Unfortunate for the Dodgers, they then faced lefty, Sammy Solis.
Former Dodger Jayson Werth hit a towering shot late put the game on ice, eventually giving the Nationals the victory, 8-3, and series lead of 2-1.
Facing elimination and having had their starters go only 12.1 innings, the Dodgers needed ace Kershaw to not only show up on short rest, but to hang on as long as he could.
Aside from giving up two runs, Kershaw seemed have the game in control until the seventh. That was when he left the game in the hand of the Dodgers bullpen after a fierce eight-pitch battle resulted in walking Bryce Harper. The walk left a bases loaded situation, with the Dodgers up 4-1, for Pedro Baez to take over.
The first pitch Baez threw in relief would hit Werth. Luis Avilan replaced Baez and gave up a two run single to Murphy, allowing the Nationals to tie the score at 4-4 before Joe Blanton came in and retired the side.
After Kershaw was used in an elimination situation in Game 4, Dave Roberts put Hill back on the mound against Scherzer. With Julio Urias not having pitched yet in the series, Roberts would keep Hill on a short leash.
Hill gave up RBI single in the second and was pulled in the third for Blanton, who eventually handed the ball to Urias.
Before Scherzer gave up a home run in the seventh, the Nationals threatened a rally that ended when Werth was given the green light to home on a two out single in the bottom of the sixth. Werth was consequently tagged out, and the Dodgers kicked off a four-run seventh inning. The Nationals wouldn’t go down without a fight, however.
After a two-run home run for Washington was hit by Chris Heisey off of Grant Dayton, Roberts put closer Kenley Jansen, who had already pitched multiple four-out saves in the series, in to pitch the seventh. Jansen went on to hold the Dodgers lead all the way into the ninth, until he walked Werth and Harper with one out.
In an unexpected and unprecedented call, the Dodgers sent Kershaw to the mound to face Murphy, who popped out. Kershaw struck out Wilmer Difo, earning his first career save and the Dodgers a trip to the NLCS to take on the Chicago Cubs.
Series MVP: Clayton Kershaw
Series Stats: 1-0, ERA: 5.84 , 1 SV
The only thing Clayton Kershaw has been criticized for in his career has been his postseason performance. Not only did he earn the win in game one to get the Dodgers their first win in the series on the road, he was able to turn in a solid start on short rest in game four, and put the team on his back wrap up game five when the Dodgers were forced to use their closer prematurely for over two innings.
The series stat line above may look ugly by Kershaw’s regular season standards, but the reality of it is Kershaw came through when the Dodgers needed him to.