People say hindsight is 20/20 when they want to discredit criticism of a poor decision. Well, for the third straight year, Dave Roberts will be using that as his shield as he faces burning questions for how he managed the Dodgers bullpen in tonight's shocking loss to the Washington Nationals, 7-3.
This Washington victory sent the Nationals past the first round for their first time in franchise history. It also sent the Dodgers down a drain of embarrassment that hasn't been seen in the record books before. No team that had won as many games as the Dodgers(106) had ever fallen in the first round of the MLB Playoffs.
The Dodgers struck early in this ballgame, earning three runs in the first two innings off home runs by Max Muncy and Enrique Hernandez. Things were going swimmingly for the Dodgers. Walker Buehler was having another spectacular outing, and he actually had run support to work with. There was a wave of cautious optimism all throughout Los Angeles. If the pitching could just hold on and the boys could tack on an extra one or two, they'd be good!
An RBI single by Juan Soto put the Nationals on the board for the first time in the sixth. But the true sea change didn't come until later. Clayton Kershaw came in for relief to conclude Buehler's night. Kershaw managed to get the last out of the seventh inning, which had the Dodger crowd soaring with pride.
Unfortunately, that momentum didn't translate into hits. When Kershaw took the mound in the eighth inning, Murphy's law commenced and he resumed his patented playoff form. He gave up two straight home runs to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto to tie the game up at 3-3 in the eighth inning. What felt like a calculated slog to the finish line now turned into a game of uncomfortable roulette!
Kershaw was immediately pulled. Another catastrophic outing in the books on his playoff resume. One can't help but feel a little bad for the guy. He has had so much success in the regular season but hasn't been the same person at all in the postseason. It's come to the point where Dodger fans can no longer ignore it. He was propped up to be the savior, but nights like this make you wonder if he even deserves to be on a playoff roster.
The game didn't truly end with Kershaw though. It only set the inevitable in motion. Kenta Maeda and Joe Kelly put out some great relief pitching in the eighth and ninth innings, but it all unfurled in the tenth inning. With the bases loaded, Joe Kelly gave up a grand freakin' slam to former Dodger Howie Kendrick, breaking the game open in awe-inspiring fashion. The Dodgers couldn't muster any hitting after the first couple innings, and it was no different in the tenth. The Nationals shocked the world and took it 7-3 in Game 5 of the NLDS.
Washington will go on to play the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, who crushed the Atlanta Braves in cold blood earlier in the day, 13-1. Los Angeles will begin their earlier-than-anticipated off-season with their most frustrating loss since the 2017 World Series. Changes may be on the horizon for the landmark baseball franchise of Los Angeles. Regardless, congratulations to the Washington Nationals on their first NLDS victory in franchise history!
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