by Nick Hamilton (@NickHamiltonLA)
LOS ANGELES, CA – The Washington Nationals moved on to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS thanks to a grand slam home run by former Dodger Howie Kendrick in the tenth inning for a 7-3 victory on Wednesday night.
“I was hoping for any moment,” Kendrick said after his monster hit heard around the baseball world.
The Dodger fans left Chavez Ravine shocked and many were upset at the team, manager Dave Roberts but most of the blame fell on the shoulders of Clayton Kershaw. Dodgers starter Walker Buehler pitched a terrific game deep into the seventh inning. Buehler left the mound with one out with the Dodgers leading the Nationals 3-1. Buehler’s streak of 21 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings streak in the playoffs was snapped in the sixth inning.
According to ESPN stats, it’s the fourth largest postseason streak by a pitcher 25 years old or younger.
Kershaw finished the seventh inning well by getting the final two outs of the inning. However what a difference an inning makes, as Kershaw began the eight inning and gave up back-to-back solo homers to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto that tied the game 3-3.
Kershaw has never allowed home runs on back-to-back pitches in the regular season. This is the second time he has done it in the postseason. The first time was October 6, 2017 against Ketel Marte and Jeff Mathis with the Diamondbacks, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Roberts decided it was time for Kershaw to have a seat in the dugout and looked distraught and bowing his head and holding it in his hands during the rest of the game.
“Everything people say is true right now about the postseason,” Kershaw said post game. “I had one job to do, just get three outs — got one out and get the other and they went over the fence and that cost us the game. It’s a terrible feeling.“
Kenta Maeda and Kenley Jansen came in and completed their task before giving the ball to reliever Joe Kelly as the game remained tied. Kelly walked Adam Eaton walked against Kelly who led off the tenth inning, Rendon doubled to left field wall and Soto was intentionally walked. Kendrick made sure the Dodgers paid for the choice in a big way.
“He’s one of those professional hitters that will make a play no matter what,” Kelly said of Kendrick.
Kelly went on to describe the feeling of the loss, “it sucks. It’s not a good feeling, We have 25 more guys in the clubhouse, we had a great regular season. It’s sad that some of these guys won’t play baseball again and retire. We fell short of the goal.“
Many of the Nationals will saver this winning moment briefly before facing the Cards on Friday. Kendrick will never forget the inning where he lifted his team to victory in an elimination playoff game.
“It was electric. Probably the best moment of my career,” Kendrick said.
That closed the door on the Dodgers season as Roberts had no answers for what happened.
“Disappointing is probably an understatement,” Roberts said.
Roberts also defended his decision to bring out Kershaw in the eight inning.
“He’s probably the best pitcher of our generation,” Roberts said. “It just didn’t work out. There’s always going to be second-guessing. I’ll take my chances any day on Clayton.“
This Dodgers team was one of the most balance and talented teams in the past three years we’ve witnessed. An MVP candidate in Cody Bellinger, who didn’t show up until Game 5 of the postseason once the regular season concluded. Hyun Jin Ryu had a phenomenal year on the mound along with Buehler. Make no mistakes about it, Buehler is the team’s ace and Kershaw who is still a future hall of famer, continued to struggle in the post season. However, it is incredibly irresponsible to place all or a majority of the blame on the shoulders and arm of Kershaw, when the decision making and responsibility has to fall on Dave Roberts, the upper management who rely too much on analytics and reliever Joe Kelly.
Buehler who was still is disbelief, fought back tears saying, “I lost an aunt two days ago. Kind of putting that on the back burner. Then it (the season) ends like this. It’s just tough.“
It’s tough to see a team loaded with so much talent and potential fall short in this way.
This was a team that was destine to make the World Series and had too much talent no to do so. Did they peak too early with 106 games won in the regular season? Many will point to that, do the rely to much on number instead of going with the eye test and gut checks?
Whatever questions that will be disseminated out there, the one answer that remains is that the Dodgers are home and the Nationals continue their quest to reach the World Series.
We’ve all witnessed great moments from this Dodgers team this season, from Kike Hernandez homers, the outstanding first game of rookie Gavin Lux who also had a great first game in the postseason, to the many walk off home run wins.
Of course another year and still no championship for the Dodgers. As the clock ticks, what will have to change in order for this team to bring a World Series ring back to Los Angeles?
We’ll have to wait for 2020 season, as the saga continues for the boys in blue.