1000 questions, 1000 answers
Who needs an Echocardiogram when you have a Dodger postseason game to test your heart?
I’ve watched a lot of Dodger postseason games, but from a pure stress level from beginning to end the game last night might have been the most stressful and fulfilling this century.
The Uribe game was fun and stressful and had much of what yesterday’s game had, but yesterday had more stress because of the bullpen issue. The Joc home run will certainly rank with Juan Uribe in NLDS lore.
The Mark Loretta game was pretty exciting, but was it this stressful, this intense? Maybe? But it didn’t complete an exciting five-game series, and it didn’t send the team to the NLCS.
This game had it all because of all the uncertainty.
How long would Rich Hill go? The answer came much too quickly. Not long at all. Trea Turner led off the 3rd with single, stole second and seemed destined to score. The Dodgers were already down 1 – 0, a second run would seem like a huge hill to climb with Max looking so strong. Hill got Harper, but Turner went to 3rd. Hill struck out Werth in a huge moment leaving Turner on 3rd with Murphy coming up. Dave Roberts made his choice, Hill walked Murphy, and walked off the mound having gotten eight outs.
With 2nd and 3rd, could Blanton keep the game in check? The answer was yes, as he got Rendon to fly out to Joc Pederson.
Once Rich Hill was relieved by Joe Blanton in the top of the 3rd the question had to be asked. Who was going to pitch the 7th or 8th? Not who you might have expected.
Max Scherzer struck out the side in the 4th. Was Max going to throw a no-hitter? The odds were stacked against him because of one particular at-bat by Justin Turner. Even though Max struck out the side, Justin Turner walked, and it was no ordinary walk. Turner was down 0 – 2 but ended up making Max throw 13 pitches. That one at-bat might have paved the way for what happened later in the game.
Blanton finished up his work going 1 – 2 – 3 in the 4th. The Dodgers managed their first hit off of Max on a bloop single to RF by Reddick. Joc followed with a sharp single to RF, and when Toles managed to hit a blooper just over the outstretched glove of Murphy the bases were loaded with one out.
Who would Dave Roberts turn to in such a crucial situation? Dave went with Andre Ethier and with the bases loaded one out, down 1 – 0, Andre ………..stuck out. Chase grounded out and the Dodgers headed to the bottom of the 5th still down 1 – 0.
Dodger wonderkid Julio Urias entered the game among so many questions.
Would the 20-year-old be rusty having not pitched in 15 days? Would Urias by unfazed on the big stage? How long could he go? Roberts said one out or ten. He was lucky he got to start his postseason career against Max Scherzer and he started with a flourish striking him out on five pitches. Trea Turner would be key, and Urias got him on a high bouncer back to the box. It was almost the last pitch Urias would throw because he turned his ankle while making the play. Urias stayed in but walked Harper. Facing Werth he threw over to first a few times, and on the last throw he picked off Harper. Urias led the major leagues in pickoffs even though he didn’t even pitch 100 innings. It was a huge mistake by Harper and another big play in a big game. More so because Urias would start the sixth inning by walking Werth. Now it was the kid against Babe Murphy, and the kid got Murphy to line out to RF. Rendon popped up to Gonzales. Urias was sailing, he had gotten through the thick of the Nationals lineup. And then Ryan Zimmerman shot a double down the line into the corner. Andrew Toles quickly got to the ball fired to Seager who fired to Grandal and ……………..Werth was out by twenty feet and the Dodgers were still only down 1- 0 heading into the top of 7th.
Urias was due up fourth. He had gotten six outs, would he stay in the game?
Would the Dodgers score or be destined to lose 1 – 0? Joc Pederson answered that question very quickly by driving the pitch by Scherzer over the fence in left field to tie the game at 1. Scherzer had been brilliant but would leave this game without a chance to win. Marc Rzepczynski replaced him and he was left-handed.
Could the Dodgers score against a left-handed relief pitcher? Dusty must have felt his stomach turn when Marc walked the slumping Grandal to put the go-ahead run on 1st base.
Could Dave Roberts out-manage Dusty Baker? Dave Roberts went into manic managing mode. Howie Kendrick pinch hit for Toles. Dusty countered with the tough righty Blake Treinen. Howie singled to left field. Roberts replaced Grandal at 2nd with Austin Barnes. Roberts pinch hit Charlie Culberson for Urias. Culberson’s only job was to bunt to put both runners into scoring position. The Dodgers had two on, no outs. Charlie failed and ended up striking out trying to bunt with two strikes. One out, two on. the game in the balance. Managers got busy. Sammy Solis replaced Treinen. Clint Robinson went into play 1st base for Zimmerman and was put into the 9 spot. Roberts countered with Carlos Ruiz to hit for Chase Utley. Roberts had now used all his catchers in one inning. This is why they put Barnes on the roster instead of Kike Hernandez because they wanted to use Carlos Ruiz as a pinch-hitter.
Carlos Ruiz slapped a single that hit the glove of 3rd baseman Rendon and caromed into left field. Barnes scampered home with the go-ahead run. Cory Seager flew out. Two outs, two on, Dodgers now lead 2 – 1 with Justin Turner due up. Big decision for Dusty.
Will Dusty go righty on righty or lefty on righty with Turner? The normal strategy would be to bring in the right-hander to face Turner, but Turner has eaten right-handers this year while struggling against left-handers. Dusty goes with the book and brings in right-hander Shawn Kelley to face Turner. The hitter of the postseason for the Dodgers calmly blasted a two-run triple off the wall in CF and the Dodger lead was now 4 – 1.
Now we need to set the new Dodger defense. Carlos Ruiz stayed in at catcher. Howie Kendrick stayed in the game in left field. Charlie Culberson stayed in the game at 2nd base. The Dodgers had no more catchers if Ruiz gets hurt. Dave could have used Barnes at 2nd to handle that possibility but that would have undermined the infield defense. Oh, and Grant Dayton the rookie was asked to pitch the 7th which partially answered the question we asked back when Joe Blanton was pitching the 3rd. I say partially because Dayton wasn’t around long. Grant walked Espinosa to start the 7th, and Dusty countered with ex-Dodger Chris Heisey. Dusty won this round, as Heisey slammed a two-run home run, and all of a sudden that three-run lead was down to one and the Dodgers still needed to get nine outs. Clint Robinson singled to RF. The top of the lineup was coming up. Things looked dire.
Dave Roberts and his big balls didn’t hesitate and he brought in the Dodger closer Kenley Jansen to pitch in the 7th inning with no outs and the big part of the National lineup coming up. Jansen got Trea Turner to fly out to Reddick. Baker decides to pinch run for Robinson with a pitcher Joe Ross. Harper slaps a single to LF, and Ross scampers to 3rd base. 1st and 3rd, one out, score 4 – 3 and Jayson Werth is coming up. Everyone has to be thinking about that monstrous home run that Werth hit against Jansen on Monday Night. Jansen needs a strikeout to keep Ross from scoring and tying the game. A DP would be better. Werth battles to a full count. Harper goes, Werth strikes out. 2nd and 3rd, two out, but now Daniel Babe Murphy is up. Easy call to walk him so now bases are loaded with Anthony Rendon up. Three pitches, three strikes, sitdown Mr. Rendon. Classic Kenley. Jansen had closed out the 7th but the Dodgers still needed six outs and Jansen had worked his arm hard in the 7th.
The 7th inning was finally over and I heard it clocked in at just under one hour. Possibly the most intense and enjoyable postseason inning this century.
Could the Dodgers get another insurance run in the 8th? Dusty makes a plethora of moves. Trea Turner goes to 2nd base. Murphy goes to 1st base. Severino goes in at catcher, Michael Taylor goes into CF. The 8th was no seventh but the Dodgers did make Dusty Baker go to his closer in the 8th, and Melancon got it done by getting Charlie Culberson to ground out with two on and two out.
How long could KJ go in the 8th and if he wavers who saves him? We hear rumbles that Kershaw has left the dugout but they were just teasers. He’s in the dugout. He’s not going to pitch tonight. For Jansen, he was going to face the bottom of the National lineup but he made it tough on himself by walking the first batter Stephen Drew and Drew made him work before walking. Espinosa, however, did the Dodgers a huge favor by bunting his bunt attempt into the air, Jansen called for it but Adrian Gonzalez flew in front of him to snag it for the first out. Jansen then blew through the next two hitters.
As the game went onto the top of the 9th, the announcers show us, Clayton Kershaw, walking toward the bullpen. Holy shit, he just pitched on Tuesday, and that was on three days rest. Decoy?
As Kershaw starts to warm up, the Dodgers go down 1 – 2 – 3.
Will Kershaw pitch the 9th? This is crazy Orel 1988 stuff of legend. Not yet, Kenley Jansen starts the 9th. Have to figure Kershaw is getting ready to face Harper but first Jansen has to get Trea Turner. Turner is the key to the inning. If he gets on, that is a basically a double because anyone can steal on Jansen and Turner is not anyone, he’s the fastest player in baseball.
Jansen bears down and strikes out the rookie.
Is Clayton coming in to face Harper? Nope, Jansen stays in but walks him. One on, one out, Werth coming up. Yikes. Once again Werth makes the pitcher work taking Jansen to a full count and walking. Jansen is clearly laboring, he’s given everything he has.
Is it Kershaw time? Yes
I have such mixed feeling. I love seeing Kershaw here but what if he fails? What if he can’t close this out like he hasn’t been able to close out his 7th inning? What if he adds to his October misery?
What if? what if? what if?
Flip the narrative, flip it. flip it big.
Y’all know what happened. Yeah, it was like that.