Dodgers face elimination with 8-4 loss to the Cubs in Game 5 of NLCS

The whiteboard inside the Dodgers clubhouse Thursday was blank after an 8-4 defeat by Chicago in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. There were no words of wisdom, no message of snark or substance. The Dodgers milled around the room, quiet in the wake of back-to-back losses, 48 hours removed from a scene of joy.

Two days earlier, fumes from a smoke machine clouded the room and a disco ball refracted a rainbow of light. The Dodgers had cradled this series in their hands, up a game with two to play at Dodger Stadium, two victories away from the World Series. 

House money lasts only so long. The Dodgers may not play another game in this ballpark until April. After bumbling through Game 4, the group managed another dispiriting performance in Game 5, bequeathing control to the 103-win Cubs. Shut out in Game 2 and Game 3, Chicago blitzed the Dodgers for 18 runs in the last 18 innings.

“Honestly, these last two nights, we got beat,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “We got beat.” 


Even before the bullpen collapsed Thursday, the offense failed to dent Cubs starter Jon Lester. Kenta Maeda was unable to complete four innings. Joe Blanton served up his second game-altering homer of the series, this one a two-run blast by shortstop Addison Russell to break a sixth-inning deadlock.

His team down two runs in the eighth, Roberts handed the ball to reliever Pedro Baez and watched the night turn into ash. The inning was torture. It lasted nine batters. The Cubs scored five runs, the first two aided by imprecise fielding from Baez and his defenders, the last three plated by second baseman Javier Baez’s double off another reliever, Ross Stripling. 

“They didn’t hit the ball hard, and they scored a bunch of runs, until the double,” first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. “We’ve got to do a better job of making outs when they’re there.” 

For the second round in a row, the Dodgers turn to Clayton Kershaw to stave off elimination. If the Dodgers win Game 6 on Saturday, Rich Hill will start on Sunday in the finale. Kershaw and Hill have combined for 13 scoreless innings in this series. 


The pitching matchup Thursday did not favor the Dodgers. Maeda gave up an RBI double to first baseman Anthony Rizzo in the first inning. The spotlight returned to Lester, who survived Game 1 despite allowing a bevy of hard contact. The Dodgers intended to aggravate Lester with their behavior on the bases, capitalizing on his inability to make pickoff throws. 

Roberts had vowed to make Lester “uncomfortable.” An opportunity presented itself in the first inning when Enrique Hernandez led off with a four-pitch walk. He took a 20-foot lead off first base, hopping up and down, trying to draw Lester’s attention. 

But Hernandez did not try to steal second base while Justin Turner struck out. He did not attempt a steal with Corey Seager at the plate. The extra 90 feet might have proved useful when Seager slashed a one-out single. Instead, Hernandez advanced only to second on the hit, and Lester worked through the jam, including a one-out flyout by Carlos Ruiz. 

“Yeah, the fact that I could have stolen third, maybe Chooch’s fly ball could have been a sac fly,” Hernandez said. “But that same way, I could have gotten thrown out at third.” 

The Dodgers found a run in the fourth when Howie Kendrick doubled, stole third and scored on a groundout by Gonzalez. By then, Maeda was already out of the game. Roberts required at least 16 outs from his bullpen. Josh Fields secured two. Grant Dayton picked up another pair. In the sixth, Roberts went with Blanton. 

Blanton anchored the bullpen during the regular season. He acted as the most reliable bridge to closer Kenley Jansen. But he has become the goat of this series. He served up a crushing grand slam in the Game 1 loss. Thursday was less brutal, but still debilitating. 

After a leadoff single by second baseman Baez, Blanton spotted a first-pitch slider to Russell that nipped the bottom of the strike zone. His next pitch was far more vulnerable. Russell parked the waist-high slider in the center-field pavilion.

“There’s periods of the year when everybody gets burned, here or there, on a little slow streak,” Blanton said. “I’m in one of those right now. It’s not a good time. But every day, I’m trying to go out to make the corrections to fix it for the next day.” 


The two-run deficit expanded into a flood in the eighth, as Pedro Baez suffered from soft contact and shoddy fielding. The five-run deluge washed away the meaning of the three runs the Dodgers scored in the final two innings. 

So much can change in two days. The Dodgers left their park Tuesday in an enviable position. They left on Thursday unsure if they would play at Dodger Stadium again this season. 

“It’s win or go home, again,” Seager said. “Just like last series. We’ve got to be ready to play.”

Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter @McCulloughTimes


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