How Kenley & Kershaw got the ball in Game 5, plus other game notes & NLCS stuff

How crazy was the Dodgers’ win in Game 5 of the NLDS? Well, just how it’s being described alone should be a hint.

“They’re going to be talking about this game for years,” Dodgers President Stan Kasten said.

“One of the best games in history,” said Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez afterward as the Dodgers celebrated reaching their fourth NLCS in the past nine seasons, and first since 2013.

“It was as intense a game as I’ve ever been a part of.” — Andrew Friedman, Dodgers president of baseball operations.

Hell, even Max Scherzer on the losing side of things had to admit it was amazing.

“That’s probably one of the craziest, if not the craziest, games I’ve ever been a part of in my career,” Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer said. “Man, this is a tough one to be on the wrong side of.”

And so, with that kind of veneration of the game itself will come amazing explanations of why it was so great like Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs.

Baseball can’t be what it cannot be. Baseball is a game that requires an investment, an investment of time and an investment of mental energy. That might, perhaps, cause it to become decreasingly popular over the years and decades to come. I can’t predict the population. What I’m sure of is that baseball still has its base. It has its core of loyal supporters, its followers who understand the demands of being a good and decent fan in the first place. Those four hours and 32 minutes were for us. The base will grant the game every second that it needs. That Game 5 needed every second in order to be what it was, and that was baseball magic.

Hard to put it better.

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Of course, the biggest decisions of the night involved going to Joe Blanton in the third, Kenley Jansen in the seventh, and then going to Clayton Kershaw in relief.

Dave Roberts had a plan in place that allowed for flexibility, but he needed more wiggle room than anticipated when Blanton had to enter in the third inning.

Before the game, Roberts said he had “a process and a plan” in place on how to “navigate” a Game 5 with Rich Hill starting on three days’ rest and a fresh 20-year-old Julio Urias available.

That plan was ripped up in the third inning when Roberts brought in setup man Joe Blanton to replace Hill.

“Joe was just walking down (to the bullpen) in the third inning and as soon as he got there, Doc calls and says Joe probably has (Anthony) Rendon,” Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said, shaking his head. “You have a plan but things change in a heartbeat, really.

“I’m telling you, he just has great intuition. … Doc threw out ‘The Book’ tonight.”

That “book” goes back to planning things out with the front office.

“These are conversations that me, the front office, we have daily, about just kind of being forward-thinking, being open-minded to how you can use guys in certain roles,” Roberts said. “Today was a prime example.”

But even they didn’t plan for using Kershaw.

“We didn’t even talk about it,” Friedman said. “We walked through so many different scenarios. None of them involved Kershaw.”

Indeed, when Kershaw walked to the bullpen an inning before, Friedman said, “I thought it was a decoy.”

Oh weird, I thought Friedman controlled everything Roberts does.

Seriously though, I was not one of those people that blamed Don Mattingly for flawed rosters, nor did I pretend that his decisions lost everything, but I say confidently that if he was managing Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS, the Dodgers lose it at some point as he throws out some combination of Ross Stripling, Pedro Baez, Luis Avilan, and Josh Fields, desperately trying to get it to Blanton and Kenley at the back of the pen.

As Stacie wrote earlier today, Roberts stepped outside of the box for even what I was thinking (and I love aggressive bullpen usage), and it paid off.

Anyway, after Blanton in the third, Kenley in the seventh was the next major decision up, and the plan was for him to go three, and Kenley wasn’t taking himself out.

Game 5 of the National League Division Series was headed into its fifth hour. The Washington Nationals played furiously from a run behind. The Los Angeles Dodgers propped their closer, Kenley Jansen, in front of that lead with none out in the seventh inning and the potential tying run at first base. He’d pitched through the heart of the Nationals’ order in the seventh, 21 pitches in all, then passed his manager on the way into the dugout and said, “Don’t take me out, Doc. Don’t take me out. I got this thing.”

But Kershaw was itching to be the emergency option.

In the dugout, Clayton Kershaw turned to his pitching coach, Rick Honeycutt.

“Is the plan for Kenley to go three?” he asked.

“Right now,” Honeycutt said, “that’s the plan.”

“I feel good,” Kershaw said.

“Absolutely not,” Honeycutt said. “Absolutely not.”

Kershaw turned away. Honeycutt watched him approach Dave Roberts, who six hours before had been asked if Kershaw could perhaps get a batter or two in Game 5. He said absolutely not.

“I appreciate it,” he told Kershaw. “No way. No way.”

“I feel good,” Kershaw said. “It’s my side day.”

When Honeycutt saw Kershaw again, he – Kershaw – had changed into his spikes. He’d traded his hoodie for a warm-up jacket. Jansen, resting between innings, noticed Kershaw in the tunnel, noticed something different.

“Wait a minute,” he said to himself, “am I dreaming?”

Kershaw left the dugout. Before he did, Roberts told him, “You go down there and throw. If it gets to Murphy, you got him.”

“If you need me,” Kershaw said, “I’ll be ready.”

“The best feeling in the world,” Jansen said, “to know the best pitcher in the game has your back.”

So basically nobody necessarily gave him permission to go get ready, but Kershaw sort of forced their hand by doing it anyway. And eventually Roberts relented because who wouldn’t want the best pitcher in the game as the fallback option, right?

Additionally, Kershaw did it partially because of the monumental task of Kenley trying to get nine outs.

“With Kenley sticking his neck out there going out in the seventh, I want to have his back, so I feel like I wanted to get out there at least for a little bit just to give us an option,” said Kershaw. “Kenley did more than he’s ever done in his career. I just wanted to have his back.”

And he got Kenley’s back.

That he did.

Baseball.

—–

Oh hey, by the way Julio Urias made history with his relief appearance, both for being the youngest pitcher in Dodgers postseason history and for being the youngest winning pitcher in postseason history.

With his relief appearance in Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday night against the Nationals, left-hander Julio Urias became the youngest pitcher in Dodgers postseason history.

Urias entered the game in the bottom of the fifth inning with the Dodgers down 1-0.

At just 20 years, 62 days old, Urias is two weeks younger than Don Drysdale when he pitched two innings of relief for Brooklyn in Game 4 of the 1956 World Series.

Urias is the fourth-youngest postseason pitcher in MLB history, behind a trio of 19-year-olds — Ken Brett (2 games in the 1967 World Series), Beert Blyleven (Game 3 of the 1970 ALCS) and Don Gullett (5 total games in the NLCS and World Series in 1970).

Urias pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win, the youngest winning pitcher in MLB postseason history.

But when will he contribute to the team? Probably not until 2019.

Speaking of age, time, and dates, the Indians, Blue Jays, Cubs, and Dodgers are the worst final four team of any major American sport ever in terms of title droughts.

The MLB playoff field is down to just four contenders. Interestingly, it happens to be the most title-starved quartet to ever reach the semifinals in any major American sport.

In fact, no other postseason in MLB, NFL, NBA or NHL history has had a longer passage of time since any of its semifinalists’ most recent championship or — for those teams that hadn’t won any titles to that point — inaugural season.

The collective championship ineptitude of the Cubs, Indians, Dodgers and Blue Jays has lasted for 227 such years, by far the most of any set of semifinalists among the major American sports.

New winners are fun.

—–

On the other side of things, Dusty Baker had a day he’d like to forget.

Oops.

And boy did he seem salty as hell about it later.

“I’d be interested to see – they won the war – but the effects of Jansen and Kershaw when they get to Chicago,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.

Ironically it was Baker, the losing manager, who deemed the strategy too risky.

Baker used his own closer, Mark Melancon, to record the final four outs in a non-save situation Thursday. But bringing in his own closer in the seventh inning?

“It’s not a trend that I’d like to be a part of any time,” he said.

Huh, I wonder if that’s connected to that thing I read…

…nah.

Seriously though, Dusty concern trolling over another team’s usage of pitchers is just rich.

—–

Oh yeah, and we have NLCS news now as well.

Kenley will be available in Game 1 despite throwing 51 pitches, which seems insane to me.

Kenta Maeda will start Game 1, which seems like the obvious choice. If they can steal Game 1, that would be huge for the series.

Kershaw will start Game 2 on sorta normal rest.

Maybe not without J.P. Howell interfering, though.

Enrique Hernandez and Brett Anderson are candidates to be added to the roster.

Why? I dunno.

Carlos Ruiz might start with a lefty on the hill.

Hard to argue with that.

Regardless of moves, the Dodgers are gonna be significant underdogs to win the NLCS, but why not at this point?

About Chad Moriyama

Chad Moriyama
"A highly rational Internet troll." - Los Angeles Times