Whicker: The only thing that could beat the Dodgers did so in Game 5

first_imgKendrick’s 10th-inning grand slam won the game, 7-3, and the series, 3-2. It came off Joe Kelly, who had been either sublime or ridiculous all season and, in this game, was both. He went 1-2-3 in the ninth. But in the 10th, he walked Adam Eaton. Anthony Rendon doubled to left, the Dodgers intentionally walked Juan Soto, and Kendrick, the former Dodger and Angel who has 2,000 hits in his sights before he retires, got a half-breaking ball in the strike zone and powered it over the wall in right-center.The Nationals’ Max Scherzer was right. “We’ve got the ‘it’ factor,” he said Monday night.After Dodgers starter Walker Buehler threw 117 pitches and left his team with a 3-1 lead, Manager Dave Roberts summoned Clayton Kershaw to get the final out of the seventh. He did. Why he pitched the eighth, with Rendon leading off, is a question that Roberts will never answer to everyone’s satisfaction. But somehow it released the emergency brake, and the Dodgers’ 106 wins now smolder aimlessly.For the longest time, Game 5 of this NLDS was so predictably blue.The Dodgers had huddled in their opposition-research rooms and watched more film than Roger Ebert. And what they learned was the reason Stephen Strasburg, who had retired the first 14 Dodgers he faced in Game 2, was behind 1-0 after two batters in the first inning. Kershaw then stepped out of the dugout to pitch the eighth, against the Nationals’ two best hitters, Rendon and Soto. He is not a reliever by trade. Rendon might have been the best right-handed hitter in the league this year. Kenta Maeda had easily been the best Dodgers reliever in the playoffs and has played that role for three Octobers now.So when Rendon pounded an 89-mph, 1-and-1 fastball into the left field pavilion, the crowd blinked and blinked again. The numbness deepened when Soto teed off on an 89-mph slider – remember, the Nats looked as if they knew what was coming from Kershaw during Game 2 on Friday – and put it halfway up the right field pavilion.Kershaw involuntarily slumped into a crouch. He took his cap off when he finally turned to look at the disappearing ball. Roberts fetched him and brought in Maeda, who of course struck out the next three Nationals.After Kelly’s pratfall, here came Kenley Jansen, who had won all those ninth-inning battles before. They played “California Love” as usual, but the stadium did not hum, and Jansen bleakly got the outs and walked in.The Nationals partied and the Dodgers, with 302 regular-season wins in three years, continue to wait their turn, as if it really works that way. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Joc Pederson, the first hitter, whacked Strasburg’s third pitch through the bullpen gate for a ground-rule double. Max Muncy turned Strasburg’s ninth pitch into a massive home run into the right-field pavilion.Kiké Hernandez then launched a fastball for a 3-0 lead in the second inning, and the crowd of 54,159 settled in for a long night of curtain calls.The Dodgers’ first 10 hitters had five hits off Strasburg, but he did not disappear. He did not give the Dodgers another hit until the sixth inning, when Cody Bellinger singled and, for the second time in the game, stole second. Strasburg struck out the side in that inning, and his final pitch, to Hernandez, was his 105th.Dodger Stadium was hushed when Buehler’s 94-mph fastball ricocheted off Kurt Suzuki’s wrist and hit his forehead. The former Cal State Fullerton catcher was helped up and left the game, and Buehler walked Trea Turner with two out, missing on a 3-and-2 curve.That was Buehler’s 117th pitch and Roberts brought in Kershaw to get Eaton, the go-ahead run. It took Kershaw three pitches, with Eaton striking out on a slider.Related Articles LOS ANGELES — If you can pronounce or spell “Niedenfuer,” you have felt this way before.Except this was Howie Kendrick, 36 years old and shaking off what had been a shaky National League Division Series, who launched a grand slam into the Dodgers’ solar plexus on Wednesday night.It wasn’t Jack Clark beating Niedenfuer and the Dodgers in the 1985 NLCS for St. Louis, a town the Washington Nationals and not the Dodgers will visit for this upcoming rung on the ladder.It was the same principle, though. The Dodgers’ bullpen had been the lone question mark on a keyboard of exclamation points from the first day of spring training until the end of this 16th game. It was a defective smoke-alarm battery the Dodgers did not replace. Then Kendrick, and mates, burned down the house. Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco center_img Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire last_img

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