The Dodgers have played 695 games since Dave Roberts assumed his post as manager before the 2016 season. There have been thrilling walk-off victories, historic performances, and two wins to advance to the World Series. But his favorite of the 695 choices is clear: Game 5 of the 2016 National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals.
“Just because it was very new to me, it was my first time with an all-hands-on-deck [approach],” Roberts said.
The Dodgers won that game, 4-3, at Nationals Park on the backs of Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw. On Wednesday, the clubs will meet in another do-or-die Game 5, this time on the opposite coast, at Dodger Stadium. It will be Walker Buehler against Stephen Strasburg on the mound until the clubs exhaust their best remaining pitching options.
In 2016, the Dodgers countered Max Scherzer with Rich Hill before pushing limits. Scherzer held the Dodgers scoreless for six innings before Joc Pederson clubbed a leadoff home run to tie the game. The homer ended Scherzer’s night and ignited a Nationals collapse. The Dodgers scored three more runs against five relievers to claim a 4-1 lead.
Dodgers left-hander Grant Dayton was given the ball in the bottom of the frame. He faced three batters, allowed two runs, and didn’t record an out when Roberts gave the ball to his closer two innings earlier than usual. Jansen, at the peak of his powers, escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Anthony Rendon and logged another 1⅓ innings.
He was replaced by Kershaw with one out in the ninth inning after issuing two walks and throwing 51 pitches. It was risky; Kershaw had thrown 110 pitches in Game 4 just two days earlier. It would end up as one of Kershaw’s signature moments. The left-hander retired the two batters he faced, concluding the game with a strikeout of Wilmer Difo to push the Dodgers to the first of their three straight trips to the National League Championship Series.
“That game was crazy,” Roberts said. “Kenley going two-plus or whatever it was, giving the ball from Kenley to Clayton. That was crazy.”
Three years later, Kershaw and Jansen, both rested, will be available out of the bullpen again with a chance to advance to their fourth consecutive NLCS in Game No. 696 for Roberts.
“I expect it to be electric,” Roberts said.