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Nationals end Dodgers’ season with a 10th inning grand slam

The Dodgers’ season ends in a 7-3 loss to the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS on Wednesday.

Clayton Kershaw in the dugout after giving up consecutive homers in the 8th inning in game 5 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers took a 3-0 early lead, but back-to-back home runs given up by Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning lead to extra innings before Howie Kendrick hit a grand slam to give the Nationals the NLDS win.

Dodgers season ends with a thud as Nationals get decisive grand slam by Howie Kendrick

Clayton Kershaw in the dugout after giving up consecutive homers in the 8th inning in game 5 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium.
Clayton Kershaw in the dugout after giving up consecutive homers in the 8th inning in game 5 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The fans remaining at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night, the loyal ones who had stuck around to witness the stunning end of the Dodgers’ season, booed Dave Roberts when he finally emerged from the dugout in the 10th inning. They echoed their feelings on his walk back after the manager finally took the ball from Joe Kelly and gave it to Kenley Jansen.

It was all too late to salvage the Dodgers from elimination. The irreparable damage was done. Howie Kendrick had already smashed a fastball from the erratic Kelly over the center-field wall 410 feet away for a spine-cracking grand slam while Jansen, the reliever the Dodgers entrusted in those moments for the entire decade, watched from the Dodgers dugout, warm and ready to go.

It was the second bullpen collapse in the Dodgers’ 7-3, season-ending loss to the Washington Nationals in a decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series. The first happened two innings earlier when Clayton Kershaw, summoned to pitch in relief, allowed two solo home runs on three pitches to squander the Dodgers’ lead.

The Dodgers’ gameplan in this series was to wait out the Nationals’ vaunted starting pitchers and exploit their dismal bullpen. On Wednesday, the Nationals, the heavy underdogs in the series, used the blueprint to topple the Dodgers.

The bullpen performance spoiled a sparkling six-inning effort from Walker Buehler and sent the Dodgers to their earliest exit since 2015 while the Nationals advanced to the National League Championship Series for the first time.

The Dodgers gave the ball to Buehler, their 25-year-old budding ace, for another big game and he delivered another dynamite performance on the stage. The right-hander held Washington to one run on four hits across 6 2/3 innings, wiggling free from jams in the fifth and sixth. He departed with two on and two outs in the seventh inning after throwing 117 pitches, tying a career high.

Watch (or not) Howie Kendrick grand slam in the 10th inning

Clayton Kershaw gives up consecutive home runs, Nationals pull even 3-3

Clayton Kershaw threw three pitches in the eighth inning and both were deposited into the seats, enabling the Nationals to tie the score 3-3.

Kershaw, who retired Adam Eaton to end the seventh, was tasked with faced Washington’s best two hitters to begin the eighth: Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto.

The right-handed hitting Rendon crushed an 89.4 mph slider to left-center field, then the left-handed hitting Soto crushed a 89.3 mph slider to right-center field, and Kershaw exited with mouth agape.

Kenta Maeda, unscored upon in the series, replaced Kershaw.

Walker Buehler throws career-high 117 pitches, Clayton Kershaw summoned

When Walker Buehler took the mound in the seventh inning with the Dodgers leading the Nationals 3-1, it marked the 13th game this season he’d pitched beyond the sixth inning.

It is also the 10th time he exceeded 100 pitches. His 101st pitch hit Kurt Suzuki in the face, and Yan Gomes ran for him.

The highest pitch count of Buehler’s career had been 110 in a complete-game victory over the San Diego Padres on Aug. 3. Buehler reached that number Wednesday with out one in the seventh and pinch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera at the plate.

He retired Cabrera on a line out to center field but walked Trea Turner on his 117th pitch. Dave Roberts turned the ball over to Clayton Kershaw, who struck out Adam Eaton on three pitches to end the inning.

Best photos from Game 5 of the NLDS

Plate umpire Alfonso Marquez reached Chavez Ravine via a rough road

Alfonso Marquez had never called a game pitched by Walker Buehler or Stephen Strasburg even though he’s been an MLB umpire since 1999. Nobody could have noticed.

His road to the major leagues is as unlikely as that of any player. Marquez was the first Mexican-born MLB umpire, and he came to the United States by squeezing through a border fence as a child.

Marquez, 47, is from a small town in Zacatecas, the son of a tombstone maker. His house had no running water. His father came to the U.S. first, found work as a dishwasher in Fullerton, then paid a coyote for bring his wife and two children.

They rode buses to Tijuana and at midnight crawled through a hole in a chain-link fence. He began umpiring as a teen in Fullerton, discovered he loved it and broke into the big leagues at age 27.

Watch Cody Bellinger make a run-saving catch in the fourth inning

Enrique Hernandez makes impact early as Dodgers extend lead to 3-0

Lot of baseball to be played, but so far the Dodgers’ decision to start Enrique Hernandez in left field for the first time in the NLDS looks smart.

Hernandez blasted a solo home run just beyond the reach of left fielder Juan Soto in the second inning to extend the Dodgers’ lead to 3-0, moments after he made a sprawling catch of a shot by Soto.

Hernandez turned toward center field, but the drive by Soto, a left-handed hitter, began to tail toward the third-base line. Hernandez redirected his body and left his feet to make the catch near the warning track.

Soto gave him a salute and Dodgers right fielder Joc Pederson waved his cap to Hernandez in admiration.

Dodgers fans say they are fine with extended protective netting

Cathy Paredes loves taking her seven-year old daughter, Cataleya, to Dodgers games. They don’t go to many, but when they do, they like to sit as close to the field as possible so Cataleya can see her favorite players.

As Paredes settled into her seat with her daughter Wednesday a few rows up behind first base, she couldn’t help but notice the new extended netting at Dodger Stadium that wasn’t there when they attended a game earlier in the season.

“As a parent I feel more confident sitting here and enjoying myself and not worried about a ball coming this way,” she said. “We’ve sat before in this area and it is a concern. You can’t really relax as much. I notice the netting but you can still see the field well. It’s not impeding on my view of the game. I like it.”

The organization had already increased the height of the netting behind home plate and along the dugouts eight feet, reaching 33 feet. The 33-foot net now extends an additional 124 feet down the baseline and stop at the elbow bent in front of the baseline seats, several rows from the foul poles.

The installation came about a year after 79-year-old Linda Goldbloom died four days after she was hit in the head by a foul ball above the netting behind home plate. In June, the club said it was studying protective measures after a girl was hit in the head by a line drive beyond the netting down the first-base line. A boy also was hit by a line drive at Dodger Stadium during batting practice this season. Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill called for extended netting this summer.

“We would still sit here even if they didn’t put up the netting,” Parades said. “I appreciate that the Dodgers did this because it makes me more relaxed and I can just enjoy the game without worrying about a ball hitting us.”

A few rows in front of Parades, Marlene Raab was sitting with her husband, Edward, and their 8-year old daughter, Leah, and 13-year-old twin boys, Sebastian and Max. They didn’t really notice the netting as they got ready for the start of the game.

“I don’t mind the netting at all,” Marlene said. “Safety comes first. It doesn’t affect my view of the game. It’s fine. I would rather have this than not have it. It’s better than not having protection and getting hit by a foul ball. I would still bring the kids to the games even if they didn’t extend the netting but I just feel better that they did.”

Others without children weren’t as happy with the extended netting but realized it was part of the changing landscape of baseball.

“I prefer it without the net,” said Carlos Velasco, a 51-year old Dodgers fan from Los Angeles. “It’s a better view without the net. I was never concerned about the ball coming this way. I understand why they did it though.”

The Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals and Houston Astros were the first teams to extend netting down the foul lines at their ballparks this season.

“The decisions to both raise and extend the nets at Dodger Stadium were made after extensive data analysis and consultation with both players and fans,” team president Stan Kasten said in a statement.

Watch Max Muncy’s two-run homer in first inning up close

Max Muncy’s two-run blast follows Joc Pederson’s weird double in the first inning

Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy celebrates after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning against the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Joc Pederson’s drive turned out not to be a home run, but Max Muncy’s certainly was, and the back-to-back shots to begin the first inning against Stephen Strasburg gave the Dodgers a quick 2-0 lead.

Pederson led off with a tailing line shot that disappeared after hitting -- or clearing -- the bullpen gate in left field. Umpires initially called it a home run.

Nationals left fielder Juan Soto immediately threw up his hands and pointed to the gate as the ball rolled through the bullpen. Pederson, meanwhile, circled the bases.

Replays clearly showed that the ball fell between the chain-link portion of the gate and a crossbar. Pederson was sent back to second, but he soon scored on Muncy’s home run.

Dave Roberts explains why David Freese isn’t in the starting lineup

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, left, congratulates Max Muncy on his two-run home run against the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS.
(Getty Images)

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decided not start David Freese at first base for one reason: He wants to use Freese late in the game in a high-leverage spot against a left-handed pitcher. Patrick Corbin and Sean Doolittle are the two left-handers available for the Nationals tonight.

Freese is four for seven in this series. He started against Corbin in Game 1 and went 0 for 3. He came off the bench in Game 3 to become the fourth player in playoff history to record three hits off the bench. He added a pinch-hit single in Game 4.

“I think that still having a spot, which I expect a close game, to plug him in leverage, I think that just is more valuable, I really do,” Roberts said. “There’s going to be leverage spots where I think I’ll take his at-bat and at-bat quality over anyone on our roster.

“And going with that versus someone that he hasn’t seen well, I think it’s the idea of putting your player in the best chance to have success.”

Freese is one for 11 with four strikeouts against Strasburg.

Dodgers must lay off pitches out of the strike zone against Stephen Strasburg

The Dodgers struck out 52 times in the first four games of the NLDS, 17 coming in a Game 2 loss in which Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg allowed one run and three hits in six innings, striking out 10 and walking none in a 4-2 Washington victory.

Strasburg has a lively fastball that has averaged 95.1 mph over his 10-year career, but he was able to muffle the Dodgers’ bats in Game 2 by getting them to chase off-speed pitches.

Of the 20 swinging strikes Strasburg induced, nine came on a curve that averaged 83.6 mph and six came on a changeup that averaged 88.3 mph, almost matching the 16 swings and misses on off-speed pitches that he totaled in his two regular-season starts against the Dodgers this season.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Dodgers chased 40.7% of Strasburg’s 85 pitches in Game 2, their sixth-highest rate against a starting pitcher all year.

“I think the biggest thing for us tonight is trying to keep him in the zone—make him throw the ball over the plate,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said before the game. “You know how he attacked you the last time, and you put together a game plan and you try to execute better.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts felt it would work to his team’s advantage that the Dodgers were facing Strasburg for the second time in five days.

“If Stras throws the way he did [in Game 2], it’s going tough sledding regardless,” Roberts said. “But I do think that the chase out of the zone, when you’re talking about tunneling from a hitter’s perspective and seeing where the ball starts that ends up a ball … I think seeing him five days ago is an advantage. But again, this guy is an elite pitcher, and we have to put up good at-bats against him.”

Justin Turner on how Dodgers will approach Stephen Strasburg in Game 5

It’s nearly time for Dodger baseball

Dodgers lineup changes: Matt Beaty is at 1B, Kike Hernandez in LF

Dodgers outfielder Matt Beaty catches the sacrifice fly hit by Washington's Anthony Rendon during Game 4 of the NLDS.
(Getty Images)

The Dodgers’ starting lineup for the National League Division Series Game 5 on Wednesday must have been a topic of debate, conflicting opinions and a sleepless night for team decision-makers. While the Washington Nationals’ lineup has been pretty much constant, the Dodgers had difficult decisions.

Gavin Lux, Matt Beaty or veteran David Freese on the right side of the infield?

Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor or A.J. Pollock in left field?

Rookie Will Smith or veteran Russell Martin at catcher?

Answers were unveiled along with the entire lineup Wednesday afternoon:

Joc Pederson RF
Max Muncy 2B
Justin Turner 3B
Cody Bellinger CF
Matt Beaty 1B
Corey Seager SS
Enrique Hernandez LF
Will Smith C
Walker Buehler P

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Dodgers plan to use Clayton Kershaw as ‘piggy-back’ reliever for Walker Buehler

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw takes the field before Game 3 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals.
(Getty Images)

Brandon McDaniel read the unusually forward quote from Clayton Kershaw last November, just days after the Dodgers lost in the World Series for the second year in a row, and took note.

“It gives me a chance to prove a lot of people wrong,” Kershaw told reporters after agreeing to a new three-year contract.

“I personally took that as, ‘All right, let’s go,’” said McDaniel, the Dodgers’ strength and conditioning coach.

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Dodgers watch gymnastics on clubhouse TV before Game 5

The stress of a winner-take-all playoff game is difficult enough to handle, but the fact that Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the Dodgers and Washington Nationals will be played on Wednesday night in Chavez Ravine makes it even tougher.

“I think it would be easier if it was Sunday and there was football on and every [television] on the clubhouse wasn’t on some analyst trying to predict what’s gonna happen tonight instead of just letting the game happen and reporting about it afterwards,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. “So, I think we have men’s gymnastics on right now.”

Actually, the clubhouse TVs had on the NLDS game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves. But with the Cardinals scoring 10 runs in the top of the first inning, channels were changed to gymnastics.