NLDS Game 4: Dodgers 3, Mets 1 – Clayton Kershaw dominates in must-win

Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers staved off elimination with a 3-1 victory on Tuesday night in New York. This was the biggest of games for the best pitcher in the world, and he delivered — and the offense did just enough.

Despite a bit of a rocky start, Kershaw was fantastic tonight on three days’ rest. His final line: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HR, 94 pitches, 62 strikes, 5/4 GO/AO.

One could not ask for more from a guy working on three days of rest. He lowered his ERA in such situations to 1.89. This won’t eliminate the “can’t pitch well in the postseason narrative,” but it’s a great first step.

The Dodgers got on the board in the third inning. Kershaw led off with a single. That was followed by an Enrique Hernandez fielder’s choice. Howie Kendrick singled to give the Dodgers first and third with two outs. Adrian Gonzalez blooped one into center field to score Hernandez. Justin Turner came up and laced a Steven Matz pitch into the left field corner. Kendrick scored, as did Gonzalez, which was surprising to me. The Mets got one back in the fourth inning on the strength of a Matt Carpenter Daniel Murphy home run.

In the seventh inning, many were calling for Kershaw to be pulled from the game. Seeing was happened last year in Game 4 of the NLDS, it’s hard to argue. At 85 pitches, I was actually OK with it. However, it would be a defining moment for Don Mattingly and Kershaw (at least to this point). If Kershaw gave up the lead, Mattingly would be roundly criticized until the end of time. Kershaw wouldn’t be able to shake the “choker” mentality. So, here’s what happened.

The inning started with a 45-foot Yoenis Cespedes single. Kershaw pounced off the mound and couldn’t glove it to try to throw out the speedy Cespedes. I’m not sure he would have gotten him, but it just felt like, “oh shit.” Travis d’Arnaud fouled out for the first out. Lucas Duda came up and hit a fly ball to deepish center field. I’m not going to lie: My heart skipped a beat. But, it was a harmless fly out. Wilmer Flores hit a hot shot to Turner at third, but he gloved it and threw him out.

If that inning wasn’t stressful enough, along came the bottom of the eighth. Chris Hatcher entered and got Michael Conforto to fly out and struck out Kelly Johnson. He followed with a walk to Curtis Granderson. That was the end of Hatcher’s night. Kenley Jansen entered to face David Wright. This is where things got clenchy.

Jansen threw him nothing but heat — 94-96 MPH cutters. I wanted him to throw the slider, but he never uncorked it. On 2-2, Wright checked his swing (he did), but A.J. Ellis jumped up thinking the inning was over. The pitch was borderline, but was in the zone on Pitch F/X. Ellis contended that the ball glanced off Wright’s bat and should have been strike three. On the replay, it looked like it did. It was not reviewed (not sure it’s reviewable anyway).

With two outs, two on for Murphy, I’m sure folks thought the worst. After a little battle, Jansen got Murphy to fly out. He threw 14 pitches in the eighth inning, setting up a potentially laborious ninth. So, naturally, he closed out the game on 10 pitches with two strikeouts. Naturally.

As for Mattingly, he managed this game about as well as one could hope/expect. He got Kershaw out of there before anything terrible happened, he went to Hatcher and then Jansen to get the final six outs. The lineup was also strong.

The series is tied 2-2. Game 5 is in Los Angeles on Thursday at 5:07 p.m. Pacific time. Jacob deGrom opposes Zack Greinke. There isn’t much more to say. Win the game and face the Cubs in the NLCS. Lose and the offseason starts earlier than expected. Baseball.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.