The game seemed to go on forever, defined largely by the Nationals' insistence on going through what appeared to be as many pitchers as possible. However, it was an L.A. pitching move that proved to be the difference in Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday night.
Clayton Kershaw, on one day of rest, got three outs with two runners on in the bottom of the ninth to thwart a Nationals rally and send the Dodgers to the NLCS for the second time in four years with a 5-4 victory over Washington in the deciding game.
Kershaw came through in the clutch for the Dodgers, with the money on the table. With runners on first and second in the bottom half of the ninth, Washington looked primed to pull off the comeback until Kershaw relieved Jose Urias, who also deserves a boatload of credit for pitching two scoreless innings. With just a day of rest under his belt, Kershaw sported a fastball in the upper 90s, as well as the usual trickery as he nailed down key outs to allow the Dodgers to move on.
Down 1-0 in the seventh, the Dodgers plated four as the Nationals went through six (yep, SIX) pitchers in the frame. That ties a postseason record. Most importantly, the rally knocked Max Scherzer from the game.
Here's what else is happening around the National League West:
For a while there, it actually looked like the Giants had what it took to dethrone the mighty Cubs in their division series matchup. After all, the Giants led Chicago 5-2 going into the ninth, just three outs away from tying the series at two games apiece and punching a plane ticket back to Chicago for a winner-take-all Game 5.
Then, shockingly, the usually reliable bullpen quickly made us all forget about that whole even-year thing.
Churning their way through four relievers in the ninth, the Cubbies puzzled Bruce Bochy, whose first reaction was simply to replace each starter, whenever the going got tough. The Giants were fresh in the pen, but Bochy's decisions remain curious as the page turns to the offseason.
There to save the Cubs in the bottom of the ninth was Aroldis Chapman, who blew fastballs by the Giants as Chi-town is headed back to the NLCS for the second year in a row, but just the fifth time in franchise history.
Two weeks into the offseason, the managerial search continues for the Rockies, who mutually parted ways with Walt Weiss after a disappointing season. The moves didn't end there--Colorado also parted ways with four coaches, including Tom Runnells. Despite the firings, sources say Colorado plans to find a manager from within the system, as they stray away from looking elsewhere for the Rockies' savior. Colorado hasn't been to the postseason since 2009, and Weiss had the worst overall record of any Rockies manager in the franchise's 24-season history. Needless to say, this move is going to be very important, especially considering the plethora of young talent currently residing in the Rocky Mountains.
Here's an interesting proposiiton, to say the least. The thought of trading away Paul Goldschmidt might be horrifying to Diamondbacks fans, but it certainly is a valid concept. After all, Goldschmidt is doing exactly what Mike Trout is doing for the Angels--over-performing for an underperforming team. If Goldschmidt played for a higher-profile team, we would certainly be talking about him as the best first baseman in the game, simply because of what he brings to the team from a hitting standpoint. It ultimately comes down to what Arizona wants to do, and how much they're willing to sacrifice. Trading Goldschmidt would mean starting all over. No, really, from scratch.
San Diego's Tyson Ross has been dealing with quite the setback. They're calling it Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which essentially qualifies as nerve troubles in the upper rib and collarbone areas. Ross isn't the first pitcher to deal with this condition, as Matt Harvey and Clayton Richard have also dealt with it at one point or another. Ross will undergo surgery to fix the issue, and with an estimated recovery time of four to six months, Ross will be ready for the regular season, if worst comes to worst.