As postseason games go, this game had soul
I’ve been reviewing postseason box scores looking for historical games to write about, and I’ll have to admit if I saw this box score twenty years from now, it would not strike me as a particularly interesting game. That is the problem with box scores of games you never saw, they don’t really tell the story of the game, just the numbers.
I don’t usually do game reviews because 100 other Dodger bloggers will be doing one, but I do want to do them for games I want to remember, and this game I want to remember.
This game had soul.
The game started with a bang, as Corey Seager hit a bomb to CF on the first pitch from Max Scherzer. That home run was the youngest home run ever hit in Dodger postseason history, so it was only fitting it was hit by Corey Seager. No one has a better story than Andrew Toles and no Dodger fan should have been surprised when Toles slammed a single to CF to start the 3rd. Kershaw bunted him to second, and Chase Utley brought him home with a single to RF. One out later, Justin Turner hit a towering fly ball to left field that Jayson Werth was unable to bring back and as it landed beyond his reach, the Dodgers had a 4 -0 against the best right-hander in the NL.
That was the easy part.
Clayton Kershaw was doing everything possible to keep the lead the Dodgers handed him with those four surprising runs against Max Scherzer. Clayton clearly was groping for success and when it eluded him, he relied on pure grit and Danny Espinosa (3 K’s, 6 runners LOB). It was a Clayton Kershaw, Dodger fans have rarely witnessed because his normal brilliance allows him to sail through most games. In this game, he was in trouble every inning after the 1st, and while he gave up three runs in only five innings, it was astonishing he was able to do that well. Kershaw met the modest goal I had set forth for him, leave the game with the lead or tied.
By the time Kershaw was gone after five innings the Dodgers had a precarious 4 – 3 lead, and it would be up to the bullpen to save the game. This game was reminiscent of the games that his replacements pitched while he was on the DL. Time after time the bullpen would need to save a game where the starter could only get fifteen outs. With all that practice it was no surprise they were able to save this one. It would take a cast of characters from Joe Blanton pitching in the 6th instead of the 8th, Grant Dayton pitching in his 1st postseason game, Pedro Baez getting three key outs, and Kenley Jansen asked to get a five-out save. With Dodger fans hearts in their hands, they watched the bullpen get out after out until finally there were no more outs to get.
Just as the season was the season of the rookies, the game was the same way. Corey Seager started the offense off with a home run. Andrew Toles started the 3rd off with a single and would later score. Grant Dayton was asked to face Bryce Harper in his first postseason appearance and got the job done.
They were some key moments.
- The ball four that Heisey swung at for strike two with a 3 – 1 count. It was a high fastball that exploded past Heisey. If he takes the pitch the Nationals have two on and two out. Instead, Jansen threw his best pitch to strike out Heisey, an unhittable pitch at the knees.
- In the bottom of the 6th, Dayton struck out Harper to end the 6th with Turner on base. Dayton starts the 7th by striking out Werth but walks Murphy. Dayton was replaced with Baez, and Charlie Culberson replaced Chase Utley. That might have been the move of the night because Murphy tried to steal and was thrown out by Grandal. What the box score will not show is that Charlie Culberson made a brilliant tag by taking the one-hop throw and still made the tag with a smooth transition from catch to tag. I’m not sure Chase makes that play. Instead of a runner at 2nd with one out, they had two outs, and Rendon made the 3rd out.
- Luckily the Nat lineup is not long and Kershaw was able to use Espinosa as his out guy. In the 2nd Espinosa struck out with runners on 1st and 2nd and one out. In the 3rd Espinosa struck out with runners on 1st and 2nd with two outs. In the fifth with Kershaw hanging on by a thread, he strikes out Espinosa for the 3rd time for the final out with Werth on 3rd base.
This was a nerve-wracking start to the postseason and reminded me of games long ago in 1981 and 1988 as the team had to win close game after close game before they got to the World Series.
I consider that a good sign.