MILWAUKEE — Corey Seager’s elbow blew out, the Dodgers found a way. The entire starting rotation went on the disabled list, and they found a way. Kenley Jansen’s heart raced, and they found a way — and they even found a way to overcome a nine-game deficit in the National League West. And on Saturday, the Dodgers found their way back to the World Series.
The future Hall of Famer pitched like one in what could turn out to be his final Dodgers start, stifling the Brewers for seven innings on three hits in a 5-2 Game 5 victory at Dodger Stadium that gave Los Angeles a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
The series shifts to Milwaukee, with Game 6 on Friday(and Game 7 on Saturday, if necessary) and the Dodgers needing one win for their first back-to-back World Series appearances since 1977-78. When a best-of-seven MLB series has been tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner has gone on to win the series 42 of 60 times (70 percent). Teams leading 3-2 with Games 6 and 7 on the road have gone on to take the series 29 of 49 times (59 percent). The Dodgers are 5-1 with a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series.
“It wasn’t as easy maybe as last year to get to this point,” said Kershaw. “I realize we’ve got some work to finish it off and get back. It doesn’t really matter how you get there, but thankful that we are here now, for sure.”
Kershaw — the Game 1 loser to the Brewers when he was charged with five runs (four earned) in three-plus innings — rebounded like a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner. Kershaw said he wasn’t thinking about Game 1, but his manager was.
“You could see the same look that you always see, there’s a determination and when you get a champion like him that gets hit around a little bit, he’s going to respond, and that’s what he did today,” said Dave Roberts.
Kershaw struck out nine with a curve he could throw for strikes and a slider that darted (season-high 19 swinging strikes), retired the last 13 batters he faced and rested a bullpen that was on fumes after throwing eight scoreless innings in Tuesday night’s marathon walk-off win. Of his 98 pitches, 66 were sliders or curveballs. He also walked twice, put down a sacrifice bunt and scored a run.
“In Game 5 of the NLCS, we’re going to have guys probably pitching out of their comfort zones all over the place,” said Kershaw. “And that was evident today when they were prepared to take me out after five innings. It’s definitely in the back of your mind that you want to try to go as deep as possible when the bullpen was taxed as much as it was yesterday.”
I was having a migraine and missed the game… I should try to have one today too!
Three innings after his spectacular outfield catch saved Game 4 for the Dodgers, Bellinger won it with the clutch hit of a lifetime. His two-out RBI single in the bottom of the 13th inning scored a hustling Manny Machado from second base as the Dodgers outlasted the Brewers, 2-1, in a thrilling and bullpen-exhausting walk-off to even the National League Championship Series at two games each.
“I think it’s seeing our guys persevere through that game,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, explaining why he joined the Bellinger party mob scene in left field. “But I just — understanding and seeing what Cody has been going through and really just wearing it and the weight of the world on him.”
Bellinger had turned into a strikeout machine in the World Series last year and was lugging around an .048 average in this postseason. Few Dodgers needed a big hit more.
A series momentum changer?
“Definitely,” said Bellinger. “We’ve got [Clayton] Kershaw on the mound tomorrow, we like our chances.”
The Dodgers are 4-8 in a best-of-seven series when tied 2-2, while the Brewers are 0-2. Teams in the position of the Dodgers in a best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format — tied 2-2, home for Game 5, on the road for Games 6 and 7 — have gone on to win the series 23 of 54 times (43 percent).
The win had added strategic importance for the Dodgers, because the Brewers used wipeout reliever Josh Hader in a loss. It was his second consecutive appearance and his fastball was two miles an hour slower than Monday night, leaving his availability to pitch in Game 5 uncertain.