Column: 1988 or 2018? Dodgers gave us a throwback to an old-school style of play in their Game 5 victory


It was old school. It was throwback. It was lovely.

On the mound, a giant threw for nearly three hours, no hook, no help, just curves and heat and heart.

At the plate, the home run was replaced with hustle, big swings became blunt pokes, no clubbing, all creating.

On an old-fashioned autumnal Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers moved to within one win of reaching their second consecutive World Series by taking the most nostalgic of paths.


They traveled Route 1988.

Did you recognize it? It certainly felt like it. For one game, anyway, Clayton Kershaw was Orel Hershiser, Chris Taylor was John Shelby, Austin Barnes was Steve Sax, Max Muncy was Mike Marshall and Yasiel Puig was, of course, Mickey Hatcher.

It was a day of bulldogs and stuntmen and a 5-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in a pivotal Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

“A huge win,’’ said Joc Pederson in a happy clubhouse where the chatter was filled with ‘’huge’’ and ‘’giant’’ and ‘’big.’’

It’s actually larger than all that. With their second win in less than 24 hours, the Dodgers hold a three-games-to-two lead in the best-of-seven series, and even though this shindig moves to Milwaukee for Game 6 and Game 7, if necessary, what was once tenuous now feels certain.

If the Dodgers keep playing with this mindset and method, they will be returning to Dodger Stadium next weekend to play the middle three games of their second consecutive World Series, this one against either the powerful Boston Red Sox or Houston Astros.

It remains debatable whether they are good enough to finally end the 30-year drought and become the first Dodgers team since 1988 to actually win the World Series. But it is without argument that they should be good enough to get there, as evidenced by a Game 5 that so enamored the Chavez Ravine fans, for the first time this month they held roll call.


In the eighth inning, the folks in the right-field pavilion used a cheer borrowed from the New York Yankees’ Bleacher Creatures by chanting the name of each Dodger on the field until that player recognized them with a wave. The players heard. All of them waved. It was that kind of endearing masterpiece, the Dodgers’ second consecutive win in which the league’s top home run-hitting team artfully survived without hitting a home run.

“We’re battling, scraping, grinding,’’ Justin Turner said.

All of those verbs began with Kershaw, who entered the game as he now enters every postseason appearance, underneath a giant question. Is this going to be Good Clayton or Bad Clayton?

This game felt like it was headed in that latter direction when, in the third inning, Kershaw gave up a single to Orlando Arcia, walked pitcher Brandon Woodruff and gave up a run-scoring double to Lorenzo Cain with the heart of the Brewers lineup coming up.

The Brewers might have won it right here. But Kershaw took it from them right there, striking out nemesis Christian Yelich and then, after walking Ryan Braun to load the bases, striking out Jesus Aguilar. Both were big whiffs. Both were confirmations that this was the Good Clayton, as he proceeded to retire 13 consecutive batters and finish with seven innings of one-run, three-hit pitching with nine strikeouts.

“We kind of fed off that,’’ said manager Dave Roberts, and truly, Kershaw was the big thing that set up the little things.


Start in the fifth inning, when Taylor finally figured out the way to beat the hard-throwing Woodruff would be to simply run him down. Taylor beat out a grounder to shortstop Arcia and hustled so hard down the first base line that Arcia hurried his throw and bounced it past first base, allowing Taylor to streak to second base.

On the very next pitch, Taylor stole third base. One batter later, Barnes bounced a single up the middle to drive in Taylor and tie the score.

Said Taylor: “l wanted to be aggressive, get to third with no out, give us a good opportunity. I thought we did a good job of battling and putting balls in play.”

Said Kershaw, using that word again: “Barnes came up huge right there for us.’’

One inning later, it was Muncy who came up oversized, after Turner had singled and Manny Machado was hit in the elbow with a pitch. Fighting through a two-strike count, Muncy lined a ball to the opposite field, through a hole at shortstop, to drive in Turner with the go-ahead run. Yes, the Dodgers’ leading home run hitter decidedly tried not to hit a home run, and instead helped win a baseball game.

“It was a tough day for everyone, then you start to get shadows creeping in, there wasn’t going to be any home runs today, we knew that,’’ Muncy said. “We just had to figure out how to get the bat on the ball and make things happen.’’


Machado eventually scored the second run of the inning on a single by Puig, who, even though the ball was still in play, turned to the Dodgers dugout and began celebrating as he ran sideways down the first base line.

“I was not trying to do too big, not trying to hit a home run, I make contact to the right place, and nobody was over there,’’ said Puig, pretty much describing the Dodgers entire afternoon.

The Dodgers scoring ended in the seventh inning in a most appropriate fashion. Kershaw drew a walk and came around on a double by Cody Bellinger and a single by Turner, then Bellinger scored on Brian Dozier’s grounder.

“You can go down a list of 10 things probably; the baserunner, the stolen base, the walk, the base hit the other way, the fight with Dozier to put the ball in play,’’ Roberts said. “There’s so many good things that we did today.’’

As the Dodgers left the field to prepare for Thursday’s relaxed flight to Milwaukee — Game 6 is Friday night — the last good thing could be heard coming from Dodgers organist Dieter Ruehle.

He was playing Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.’’

The Dodgers repeated that mantra Wednesday, over and over, in the smallest of ways. The results were, well, huge.


Get more of Bill Plaschke’s work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke