Nats rally from 3-0 deficit, stun Dodgers in Game 5, in extras
Howie Kendrick broke a 3-3 10th inning tie with a 410-foot grand slam, sending the Washington Nationals to their first National League Championship Series with a 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the deciding Game 5 of the NLDS.
The Kendrick slam capped a game-long comeback for the Nats, who trailed 2-0 in the first after Max Muncy took Stephen Strasburg out to right-center for a two-run homer.
Kike Hernandez hit a solo shot in the second to make it 3-0 LA, but, surprise that it would have been at the time, that was all the Dodgers would end up getting off Washington pitching.
Strasburg ended up going six innings, allowing three runs on six hits, striking out seven and walking one.
The game plan for Nats manager Davey Martinez going in was to try to get six, maybe seven from Strasburg, with a lead, but he left down 3-1, the one coming when Anthony Rendon doubled in the top of the sixth, and Juan Soto followed with an RBI single.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had his game plan working to perfection, getting six solid innings from Game 1 winner Walker Buehler, who went six and two-thirds innings for LA, giving up a run on four hits, striking out seven and walking three, on 117 pitches.
The plan then called for Roberts to go to Clayton Kershaw, who came in for the Dodgers with two on and two out in the seventh and struck out Adam Eaton to end that threat.
Kershaw then started the eighth for LA, and Rendon, on a 1-0 pitch, low and in, probably out of the zone, took him out to left, bringing the margin to 3-2.
On the next pitch, to Soto, the 20-year-old took Kershaw out to right-center, 449 feet, tying the game at 3, sending Kershaw to his knees on the mound, then out of the game.
Kenta Maeda got out of the eighth for Los Angeles, and Patrick Corbin, who had lost as a starter in Game 1 and then as a reliever in Game 3, got through the bottom of the eighth to send the game to the ninth all square.
Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly put the Nats down in order, and Daniel Hudson, in relief for Washington, pitched around a one-out Hernandez single to send the game to extras.
The top of the 10th played out perfectly for the Nationals. Eaton worked a 1-2 count to earn a walk, then Rendon, after falling behind 0-2, hit a ground-rule double to left, putting runners on second and third with no outs.
Soto was intentionally walked to load the bases, bringing up Kendrick, who to that point had gone 0-for-4 on the night.
After fouling off a first-pitch knuckle-curve from Kelly, Kendrick, looking to get a fly ball to the outfield to score a run on a sac fly, did himself a good bit better, taking the 97-mph fastball to right-center, 410 feet, for the slam that put the Nats, down most of the evening, suddenly up four.
Sean Doolittle put the Dodgers down in order in the 10th, completing the improbable comeback for the Nats, who famously started 19-31, had a 3 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to the metrics, on May 23, and are now in their first-ever NLCS.
Game 1 of the Championship Series, pitting the Nationals and the St. Louis Cardinals, is slated for Friday night in St. Louis.
Game 2 would be on Saturday in St. Louis, with Games 3 and 4, and 5, if necessary, in Washington, beginning on Monday.
Story by Chris Graham