Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, the Los Angeles Dodgers suffered a devastating loss in NLDS Game 5, sending the Washington Nationals to the NLCS (WAS 7, LAD 3). The Nationals will face the Cardinals in the NLCS beginning Friday.
The Dodgers jumped on Stephen Strasburg for two early home runs in Game 5, and they took a 3-1 lead into the eighth inning. Clayton Kershaw, who came out of the bullpen to strike out Adam Eaton with two men on base to end the seventh, started that eighth inning. Three pitches later, the game was tied. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto hit back-to-back homers on back-to-back pitches.
To the action footage:
Give Rendon credit. He went down and dug a pitch out of the dirt for the home run. Not a bad pitch! The pitch Soto hit out was terrible though. Kershaw left an 89 mph cookie in his happy zone. Just an incredible meltdown, and to make matters worse, Kenta Maeda came out of the bullpen and struck out the next three batters.
"I know it feels good to win and I know it feels really bad to lose," Kershaw said following Game 5. "It feels really bad to be in the middle of that tonight. It's just a bad feeling."
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts used Kershaw in relief in Game 5 mostly because he doesn't trust his bullpen. Joe Kelly has been inconsistent this year -- at best -- and Kenley Jansen has been alarmingly home run prone. Roberts trusted his stalwart future Hall of Fame ace over his regular relievers, and it backfired.
"Having a group of guys that you spend your entire season with -- eight straight months battling, competing -- and it just ends all of a sudden like that, and you're to blame for it. It's a terrible feeling," Kershaw said.
It's no secret that Kershaw has had his troubles in the postseason -- he's had some gems in October too, but the meltdowns get more attention -- and the disparity in the numbers is striking:
- Regular season: 2.44 ERA and 0.7 HR/9 in 2,271 2/3 innings
- Postseason: 4.43 ERA and 1.4 HR/9 in 158 1/3 innings (includes NLDS Game 5)
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Game 5 was the second time Kershaw has allowed home runs on back-to-back pitches in the postseason. Ketel Marte and Jeff Mathis got him in Game 1 of the 2017 NLDS against the Diamondbacks. Kershaw has never once allowed home runs on back-to-back pitches in the regular season.
Even spread across 12 years and 17 postseason series, 158 1/3 innings is not a small sample size. Kershaw has not been the same pitcher in the postseason as he's been in the regular season. In Game 5, the home run bug bit him, as it's bitten him throughout his postseason career.
"Everything people say is true right now about the postseason. I understand that," Kershaw said following Game 5.