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Dodgers defeat Nationals, 4-3, to advance to NLCS; Clayton Kershaw gets final two outs

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In a dramatic game, the Dodgers scored four runs in the top of the seventh, then turned to Kenley Jansen and Kershaw to shut down the Nationals and preserve a 4-3 victory. The Dodgers will open Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday in Chicago.

Dodgers win Game 5 with four-run seventh inning, stellar relief by Jansen and Kershaw

Dodger players and coaches celebrate after pinch-hitter Carlos Ruiz delivered a run-scoring single to take the lead over the Nationals in the seventh inning of Game 5.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

At 12:12 a.m. EDT on Friday, as a game, a series and a season hung in the balance, Clayton Kershaw climbed up the steps of the Dodgers dugout. He walked alone, amid the silence of Nationals Park, toward his team’s bullpen. Hours before, his manager insisted Kershaw would not pitch in this game, even as his team fought to advance past the Nationals in the fifth game of the National League Division Series.

Dave Roberts was mistaken.

In the ninth inning of a 4-3 victory, a heart-wrenching game that lasted more than four hours, Kershaw recorded the final two outs. He was pitching on a day of rest, after a 110-pitch, 11-strikeout effort on Tuesday. He could not finish Game 4. But he finished Game 5.

Kershaw entered with two men on and one out. Kenley Jansen had expended himself, throwing 51 pitches to drag the team from the seventh inning into the ninth. Kershaw did not crumble. He erased Daniel Murphy, the Nationals’ most accomplished hitter, with a pop-up. When he struck out Wilmer Difo swinging at a pitch in the dirt, the final out recorded on a throw to first base, the entirety of the roster mobbed him.

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Clayton Kershaw has his October moment

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Dodgers advance to NLCS with 4-3 win over Nationals; Clayton Kershaw gets the last two outs

BOTTOM OF NINTH: DODGERS 4, NATIONALS 3

As Clayton Kershaw continued to warm up in the Dodgers’ bullpen, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts stuck with Kenley Jansen. As his pitch count stretched to a never-before-seen amount, Jansen continued to do the job. He struck out Trea Turner. With the Nationals Park crowd chanting, “Let’s go Harper!” Jansen walked Bryce Harper on four pitches.

Roberts walked to the mound and talked to Jansen. He left his closer in the game. Jansen carried the count to 2-and-1 on Jayson Werth, throwing increasingly wildly. He walked Werth. Roberts came right back to the mound and brought in Kershaw. Jansen stayed on the mound to hand the ball directly to Kershaw. Kershaw’s first pitch was a 93-mph fastball on the outer edge, taken for a ball by his nemesis Daniel Murphy.

His second pitch was a nearby 94-mph fastball, popped up to second baseman Charlie Culberson for the second out.

Up came pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo. He took a first-pitch ball, fouled off the second fastball, and swung through another fastball. Kershaw’s fourth pitch to Difo was his first slider, fouled off. Difo missed the fifth pitch. He struck out.

The Dodgers beat the Nationals, 4-3. Their ace recorded the save. They will travel to Chicago tomorrow to begin the National League Championship Series against the Cubs.

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Dodgers lead 4-3 heading to bottom of ninth; Jansen on mound, Kershaw in bullpen

TOP OF NINTH: DODGERS 4, NATIONALS 3

The Dodgers went down in order against Nationals closer Mark Melancon. Carlos Ruiz struck out swinging, Corey Seager popped out in foul territory, and Justin Turner flew out to right. Clayton Kershaw continues to warm in the Dodgers’ bullpen, but Kenley Jansen is going to begin the bottom of the ninth.

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Dodgers lead, 4-3, after eight; Clayton Kershaw is warming up in the bullpen

BOTTOM OF EIGHTH: DODGERS 4, NATIONALS 3

Kenley Jansen did his job for another inning, but it was not easy. He walked Stephen Drew, then was aided by a bunt popout from Danny Espinosa. Pedro Severino then flew out, and Michael Taylor struck out. As the inning ended, Clayton Kershaw walked to the Dodgers’ bullpen and began to warm. He could save this game.

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Dodgers lead Nationals, 4-3, after top of eighth

TOP OF EIGHTH: DODGERS 4, NATIONALS 3

Josh Reddick grounded out, Joc Pederson walked, and Kenley Jansen bunted Pederson to second. Mark Melancon entered and intentionally walked Howie Kendrick, then faced Charlie Culberson, who grounded out back to Melancon. The Dodgers remain ahead, 4-3.

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Heisey’s two-run homer narrows lead, but Nationals leave bases loaded; Dodgers lead 4-3 after seven

BOTTOM OF SEVENTH: DODGERS 4, NATIONALS 3

Rookie left-hander Grant Dayton started the inning for the Dodgers and walked Danny Espinosa on four pitches. Kenley Jansen then joined Pedro Baez in the bullpen.

Chris Heisey, the ex-Dodger, pinch-hit for Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton and hammered Dayton’s second pitch into the second row of the left-field bleachers. Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts stuck with him, and another ex-Dodger, Clint Robinson, delivered a single to right field, and pitcher Joe Ross pinch-ran for him.

In came Jansen. Trea Turner flied out. Bryce Harper drove a single to left, and Ross took third base. With one out, Jansen opposed Jayson Werth, who homered off him in Monday’s Game 3 at Dodger Stadium.

The count stretched to three balls and two strikes. Jansen struck him out swinging, but Harper stole second, so Jansen intentionally walked Daniel Murphy.

Anthony Rendon strode to the plate with the bases loaded and two out. He swung at the first pitch and missed it. He swung at the second and third pitches and fouled off both. He swung at the fourth pitch and missed it again. For at least one inning, Jansen preserved the lead.

The seventh inning, in total, took more than one hour to complete.

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Nationals threatening in bottom of seventh

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Nationals close to 4-3 thanks to Chris Heisey’s two-run homer

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Pederson, Ruiz, Turner give Dodgers a 4-1 lead after top of seventh

TOP OF SEVENTH: DODGERS 4, NATIONALS 1

Joc Pederson hit Max Scherzer’s first pitch of the seventh inning into the Dodgers’ bullpen for a game-tying solo shot. Nationals Manager Dusty Baker immediately removed Scherzer for left-hander Marc Rzepczynski.

Yasmani Grandal followed by working his second walk of the game. Baker brought in right-hander Blake Treinen when Howie Kendrick was announced as a pinch-hitter for Andrew Toles.

Kendrick landed a broken-bat single to left field. With two men on and nobody out, Charlie Culberson pinch-hit for Urias while third-string catcher Austin Barnes pinch-ran for Grandal at second. Culberson’s goal was to bunt, but he could not. He struck out on a foul bunt.

In came left-hander Sammy Solis from Washington’s bullpen, in a double switch. Ex-Dodger Clint Robinson took over for Ryan Zimmerman at first base. Carlos Ruiz pinch-hit for Chase Utley and sneaked a ground single into left field, giving the Dodgers the lead, 2-1.

Corey Seager flied out to center field. Facing Shawn Kelley, Justin Turner smashed a slider 403 feet to center field for a two-run triple, silencing the crowd at Nationals Park.

Kelley shook his arm and appeared hurt. Left-hander Oliver Perez entered and, finally, ended the 35-minute half-inning by retiring Adrian Gonzalez.

The Dodgers lead, 4-1. They are three innings from flying to Chicago.

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Justin Turner’s triple makes it 4-1 Dodgers in seventh

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Dodgers take 2-1 lead in top of the seventh

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Joc Pederson ties score with solo homer

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Urias pitches second scoreless innings, Dodgers still trail, 1-0, after six

BOTTOM OF SIXTH: NATIONALS 1, DODGERS 0

Julio Urias walked Jayson Werth to begin the inning. Daniel Murphy soon smashed a Urias fastball into right field. At first, Josh Reddick went in, then had to hop to ensure he’d catch it.

Anthony Rendon popped out to first base. Ryan Zimmerman doubled down the left-field line, and Nationals third-base coach Bob Henley inexplicably sent Werth home, where he was thrown out by 15 feet. Urias has thrown 30 pitches in two scoreless innings of relief, and might have another inning in him yet.

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Slideshow: Photos from Game 5 of the NLDS

Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy celebrates after scoring a run against the Dodgers and pitcher Rich Hill (background) in the second inning of Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday in Washington. To see more images, click on the photo.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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Dodgers don’t score again, trail Nationals 1-0 after top of sixth

TOP OF SIXTH: NATIONALS 1, DODGERS 0

Corey Seager popped out to third baseman Anthony Rendon. Justin Turner struck out swinging. Adrian Gonzalez singled into center field, 10 or so feet short of what Trea Turner could reach. Josh Reddick flew out to right field, and Max Scherzer has thrown 98 pitches through six innings of scoreless baseball.

Nationals Manager Dusty Baker could stick with him to begin the seventh.

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Nationals lead Dodgers 1-0 after five innings

BOTTOM OF FIFTH: NATIONALS 1, DODGERS 0

Nationals Manager Dusty Baker let Max Scherzer bat for himself, and Scherzer struck out swinging against Julio Urias, the 20-year-old pitching his first postseason game.

Next, Trea Turner grounded one back to Urias, who twisted his right ankle in pursuit of the baseball but delivered an in-time throw to first. After examination by the trainer, Urias remained in the game. He walked Bryce Harper on seven pitches, then threw over three times while Jayson Werth batted. The second time, Urias nearly picked Harper off. The third time, he did, to end the inning.

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Julio Urias now pitching for the Dodgers

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Dodgers leave bases loaded in fifth, still trail 1-0

TOP OF FIFTH: NATIONALS 1, DODGERS 0

The Dodgers are not being no-hit anymore. Josh Reddick led off the fifth inning with a soft single to right field. Down 0-and-2 after two called strikes on fastballs, Joc Pederson laced another single to right field.

Yasmani Grandal stepped up to the plate in another big spot and struck out swinging, slamming his bat to the dirt as he walked back to the dugout. Then came Andrew Toles, with Andre Ethier on deck to pinch-hit for reliever Joe Blanton. Toles, too, fell behind 0-and-2, then landed a single a few inches beyond Daniel Murphy’s glove, into short right field, to load the bases.

Ethier came to the plate, needing only to hit a reasonably deep flyout to tie this game. After a first-pitch strike, Nationals pitching coach Mike Maddux came to the mound. Scherzer soon struck out Ethier with a darting changeup.

Up came Chase Utley, who ripped Scherzer’s first pitch up the middle. Danny Espinosa fielded it cleanly and threw Utley out by two steps at first base.

The Dodgers still trail, 1-0, with 12 outs left.

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Nationals lead Dodgers 1-0 after four innings

BOTTOM OF FOURTH: NATIONALS 1, DODGERS 0

On for another inning, Joe Blanton fired five straight sliders to Ryan Zimmerman. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Blanton threw a sinker, and Zimmerman pounded it for a groundout. Next, Danny Espinosa saw more sliders and grounded out to second. Jose Lobaton flew out to center field.

Julio Urias warmed in the Dodgers’ bullpen throughout the inning. He could take the mound for the Dodgers to begin the bottom of the fifth.

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Dodgers still have no hits through four innings

TOP OF FOURTH: NATIONALS 1, DODGERS 0

Chase Utley struck out on seven pitches. Corey Seager struck out on six. Justin Turner battled Max Scherzer to 13 pitches and then walked. Adrian Gonzalez struck out on four pitches.

Scherzer, throwing a steady array of sliders and changeups, is still no-hitting the Dodgers through four innings of an elimination game. He has thrown 67 pitches.

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Joe Blanton relieves Rich Hill; Nationals don’t score in third

BOTTOM OF THIRD: NATIONALS 1, DODGERS 0

Trea Turner knocked a curveball into left field for a leadoff single, then stole second on Rich Hill’s second pitch to Bryce Harper. On the next pitch, Harper launched a drive to center field, caught by Joc Pederson. Turner took third base.

As Joe Blanton began to throw in the Dodgers’ bullpen, Hill struck out Jayson Werth and then initially walked Daniel Murphy, again putting runners on the corners with two outs.

Blanton entered the game. Murphy stole second. On a 3-and-2 count, Anthony Rendon lined a 105-mph drive to center field, again caught by Pederson, this time to end the inning. The score remains 1-0, with the Nationals ahead.

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Rich Hill is out, Joe Blanton is in

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Dodgers are hitless through top of third, trail 1-0

TOP OF THIRD: NATIONALS 1, DODGERS 0

Yasmani Grandal worked a four-pitch walk to begin the inning, ending Max Scherzer’s perfect-game bid. Two, maybe three, of the pitches were close to being strikes.

The inning quickly turned, though. On the first pitch, Andrew Toles ripped a grounder to Ryan Zimmerman at first base, and the Nats expertly turned a double play. Rich Hill then grounded Scherzer’s next pitch to second base for the third out.

Scherzer has thrown 37 pitches through three hitless innings.

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Nationals take 1-0 lead after two innings

BOTTOM OF SECOND: NATIONALS 1, DODGERS 0

Daniel Murphy pushed Rich Hill’s first pitch of the second inning cleanly into left field, and Hill put his hands on his hips. Hill then struck out Anthony Rendon on an 89-mph fastball on the outside edge of the strike zone, or perhaps a bit outside that.

On Hill’s first pitch to Ryan Zimmerman, Murphy stole second base. Hill then gifted Zimmerman a 3-and-0 count while muttering to himself in disgust. Hill threw one strike, then walked him. Out came pitching coach Rick Honeycutt for a mound visit. Hill’s second pitch to Danny Espinosa was laced into right field for a run-scoring single. Josh Reddick’s throw home was off target and not in time, so Zimmerman took third, too.

With runners on the corners and one out, Josh Fields began to warm in the Dodgers’ bullpen. Jose Lobaton and Max Scherzer each struck out on four pitches, and Hill limited the damage to one run.

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Scherzer looks dominant as he sets down Dodgers in second

TOP OF SECOND: DODGERS 0, NATIONALS 0

Adrian Gonzalez flew out to right field. Josh Reddick struck out swinging. Joc Pederson grounded out, hard, to second base. Max Scherzer has thrown just 30 pitches through two perfect innings. He’s starting on extra rest and appears capable of throwing well over 100 pitches tonight.

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Hill escapes injury and sets Nationals down in order

BOTTOM OF FIRST: DODGERS 0, NATIONALS 0

Rich Hill’s first two pitches were balls and his next two strikes. Trea Turner then rapped the 3-and-2 pitch back at Hill. It nailed the pitcher on the left wrist, but he recovered to throw Turner out at first. Once he did, he shook his wrist, in apparent pain, and was paid a visit by the Dodgers’ trainer.

After examination, he stayed in the game and struck out Bryce Harper on a fastball and Jayson Werth on a curveball.

Both starting pitchers appeared sharp in the first inning.

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Bryce Harper obviously isn’t 100%

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Dodgers go down quietly in top of first

TOP OF FIRST: DODGERS 0, NATIONALS 0

Max Scherzer’s first pitch of the last game one of these two teams will play for six months was a fastball on the corner taken by Chase Utley for a strike. Utley soon stroked a line drive into center field, where Trea Turner chased it down.

Next to bat was Corey Seager, who’s without a hit since the first inning of Game 3. He battled Scherzer to a 3-and-2 count before tapping out to second base.

Justin Turner whacked a 2-and-1 fastball from Max Scherzer foul down the line, then grounded the next pitch to Danny Espinosa at shortstop. Turner was out easily.

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It’s almost game time

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Justin Turner: Red-hot in postseason

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Rich Hill’s main objective tonight is ...

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Game 5 lineup for Dodgers and Nationals

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Game will have to end early if fans in Washington want to catch the train home

If tonight’s final game of the National League division series between the Dodgers and Nationals takes as long to develop as the first four, Washington will flash a message on its scoreboard sometime around the seventh inning about the last train soon departing from the nearby Navy Yard-Ballpark Metro station.

And so if fans act as they have in the past, the final few, potentially tense, innings will be played before a mostly empty ballpark. When presented with a similar situation for Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS, fans left en masse during the 18-inning affair.

Now, because of construction, the last train guaranteed to allow riders to connect throughout the system will leave at 11:20 p.m., and the last of any type not long afterward.

The games this series have taken, on average, 3 hours, 54 minutes, which, with tonight’s 8:08 local start time, would mean a final pitch thrown after midnight.

“I don’t think anybody’s overjoyed to have a night game starting at 8 p.m.,” Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said this afternoon. “But that’s TV, it kind of runs the world. You’ve got another hour of nervous energy to deal with.”

Baker was later asked if he was concerned about that energy becoming problematic for his starting pitcher, right-hander Max Scherzer, who pronounced this the biggest start of his life and has been known to act amped up in big games.

“Yeah, you think about it,” Baker said. “But what are you going to do? You can’t give him a Valium or something and tell him to chill. He has to work that nervous energy out of him.”

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Watch Corey Seager take batting practice

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Times reporters preview Game 5 between the Dodgers and Nationals

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Clayton Kershaw will not be available to pitch in relief in Game 5

Clayton Kershaw
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

All hands are not on deck for the Dodgers on Thursday night.

Clayton Kershaw is “absolutely not” available to appear in relief, Manager Dave Roberts said before Game 5 of the National League division series against Washington.

Kershaw threw 110 pitches and logged 6 2/3 innings in Game 4. He was pitching on three days of rest, after missing more than two months this summer because of a herniated disk.

Kershaw played catch before Thursday’s game. If the Dodgers advance, he is on schedule to start Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs.

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Rich Hill is ready for the challenge of Game 5

Rich Hill
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

He does not fear the moment. Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill made that clear Tuesday evening as he discussed his intention to start Game 5 of the National League division series against the Washington Nationals.

He has never pitched in a situation like this (a playoff elimination game), in a setting like this (on the road at Nationals Park), under circumstances like this (only three days removed from his start in Game 2).

And he did not seem to mind.

“If you’re not ready for it,” Hill said, “you’re in the wrong spot.”

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Rich Hill will start Game 5, with Julio Urias ready to assist

Rich Hill and Julio Urias will have a lot to do with whether the Dodgers win or lose Game 5.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press; Denis Poroy / Getty Images)

On Thursday morning, the Dodgers confirmed what Rich Hill already announced Tuesday evening: Hill will start tonight in Game 5 of the National League division series against Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals.

Hill will be the first Dodger to pitch. But he will be far from the last.

Working on three days of rest, Hill will not be asked to shoulder a 110-pitch load like Clayton Kershaw did in Game 4. He may only go one turn through the Nationals lineup, before handing the baseball over to the bullpen.

Manager Dave Roberts described a “collection of arms” ready for the series finale. The principal weapon in the bullpen is 20-year-old rookie Julio Urias, who is expected to follow Hill to the mound at some point. It may not, however, be a direct succession.

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