Dave McCullough recaps Game 4 of the NLDS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, where the Dodgers victory resulted in the series going back to Washington for Game 5.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts asked potential Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to take the ball on short rest in Game 4 with the season on the line. The ace went on to record 11 strikeouts in 6 ⅔ innings, despite giving up five earned runs on seven hits and a season-high two walks. But Kershaw departed the game having coughed up the lead in the seventh inning, putting a quartet of relievers – Pedro Baez, Luis Avilan, Joe Blanton, and Kenley Jansen under extreme pressure in the late innings of a tight ballgame. But Chase Utley delivered a run scoring single in the bottom of the 8th to break the tie, and Jansen recovered from Game 3’s debacle to nail down the save.
Washington’s Trea Turner singled to left leading off the game, one of his three hits on the day. He would come around to score after a Bryce Harper walk and a Jayson Werth strikeout when red-hot NL MVP candidate Daniel Murphy drove a wormburner into right field. Turner would go on to score three runs in this game, while Murphy drove in four with his two hits, a sac fly, and a walk. Kershaw escaped the top of the first by getting Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman to fly out.
Nationals starter Joe Ross got the leadoff hitter, Utley, to ground out and then retired probable NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager with a strikeout. But Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was hit by a pitch – a recurring theme in this game, and series – and then first baseman Adrian Gonzalez delivered a towering fly ball into the bleachers for a two-run home run, and the lead:
Ross ended the inning by inducing a ground ball to first by Josh Reddick, and the home team led 2-1 after one inning.
Both teams went 1-2-3 in the second inning. Trea Turner again led off with a single to open the third frame and, after Harper struck out, Werth singled to right moving Turner to third. Murphy followed that by stroking a fly ball into center field, deep enough to score the run from third, tying the game. Rendon then struck out to end the inning in a 2-2 tie.
Kershaw led off the bottom half of the inning with a double, but Utley struck out and Seager popped out. However, Justin Turner delivered a single to right, scoring Kershaw and re-establishing the Dodgers lead at 3-2. Gonzalez and Reddick walked, loading the bases with two outs. Center fielder Joc Pederson was hit by a pitch – that’s #2 on the game – and Justin Turner scored, pushing the score to 4-2, Dodgers. Nationals manager Dusty Baker went to the bullpen, yanking Ross after just 2 ⅔ innings, after surrendering four hits, two walks, two hit batsmen, and four earned runs while striking out three. Reliever Oliver Perez then got Yasmani Grandal to ground into a force play to conclude the frame.
The Nats went down in order in the top half of the fourth while Perez put down the first two Dodgers in the bottom half before plunking Utley – the third hit batsman of the game – but recovered to retire Seager on a flyout to center.
The top of the fifth saw Washington go down in order. In the home half, Reynaldo Lopez replaced Perez and quickly got the first two outs of the inning, but Reddick singled and Pederson doubled to left, scoring the runner and extending the Dodgers lead to 5-2 after five full innings.
The top of the sixth saw Werth lead off with a single, but Kershaw beared down and and got Murphy, Rendon, and Zimmerman to quell the threat. After an Andrew Toles ground out, Kershaw walked, but then Utley and Seager both struck out.
Leading off the 7th, shortstop Danny Espinosa led off with a single. After a Pedro Severino strikeout, Baker sent up Chris Heisey as a pinch hitter, but he flew out to center. Trea Turner then delivered his third hit of the game, and Harper followed with a walk to load the bases. Roberts finally went to the bullpen, as Kershaw had thrown 110 pitches on just three days rest. Baez promptly plunked Werth with a pitch – the fourth hit batsman of the game – to force in a run. Roberts went back to the mound and summoned the lefthander, Avilan. Murphy smacked a single into left-center field, scoring two runs, tying the game at five runs apiece.
Roberts then asked for Blanton from the pen – his third pitching change in the past three batters – and the veteran righty finally put an end to the Nats’ rally. Marc Rzepczynski got the first two outs of the bottom of the seventh, and Blake Treinen got the final out for a scoreless half inning for the visitors.
Blanton recorded a scoreless 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 8th. In the bottom of the inning, Pederson and Grandal were both retired before Toles was hit by a pitch – the fifth such occurrence of the game, and the record-setting 11th HBP of the series. Pinch hitter Andre Ethier then delivered a single, putting two on with two out. The veteran second baseman Utley came to the plate, and bolstered his Hall of Fame resume with a hard ground ball up the middle, scoring Toles from second base, and the Dodgers re-claimed the lead, 6-5.
Jansen came on to close things out, and he shut down the Nats hard, getting pinch hitter Stephen Drew to strikeout, retired Trea Turner for the first time today with a swinging K, and induced Harper into grounding out to first base to end the game.
The series, tied at two games apiece, now shifts back to Washington. The Nationals will send 20-game winner and Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer to the hill in Game 5. The Dodgers may bring back Game 2 starter Rich Hill on short rest, or ask 19-year old rookie sensation Julio Urias to take the ball. Either way, the Dodgers live to fight another day and the Nats will hope to close out a series win on their home field.