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MLB Playoffs: Dodgers outlast Nationals in Game 5 to reach NLCS

MLB Playoffs: Dodgers outlast Nationals in Game 5 to reach NLCS

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WASHINGTON -- A little past midnight in Game 5 of the NL Division Series, Clayton Kershaw emerged from the bullpen to pitch in relief for the first time in seven years.

Two outs later, the only save of his major league career in the books, Kershaw's arms were raised and teammates were rushing to celebrate with a guy whose postseason performances have never carried the luster of his regular-season success.

Coming in with two runners on base and the outcome in the balance, Kershaw got Daniel Murphy to pop out, then struck out Wilmer Difo to end it, finishing the Los Angeles Dodgers' 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals to win their NL Division Series in game that ended in the wee hours of Friday.

The Dodgers won the last two games of the best-of-five NLDS and now head to the NL Championship Series to face the Chicago Cubs. That opens at Wrigley Field on Saturday night.

The Nationals, meanwhile, still have never won a postseason series.

Kershaw worked two days after throwing 110 pitches over 6 2/3 innings in Game 4, when he had the benefit of only three days' rest following his win in Game 1 against the Nationals.

Several hours before Thursday's game began, Dodgers first-year manager Dave Roberts was asked whether Kershaw might be available at all -- maybe just for one out, say?

"No," came Roberts' reply. "Absolutely not."

Turned out the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner would get a pair of outs in his first relief appearance since the 2009 playoffs.

He came in after regular Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen threw a career-high 51 pitches while getting a career-high seven outs after entering in the seventh. Jansen walked Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth with one out in the ninth -- and that's when Roberts went to Kershaw.

Kershaw wound up with his second pro save. His other one came in 2006, the Gulf Coast League.

LA's scoring all came in a four-run seventh off six Nationals pitchers, including Joc Pederson's homer off Max Scherzer and Justin Turner's two-run triple off Shawn Kelley.

Washington was leading 1-0 in the sixth, when Werth walked and Ryan Zimmerman smacked a two-out double to left. But third-base coach Bob Henley -- whose propensity for waving runners home led to a popular T-shirt among Nationals players that says, "Send `em short, send `em tall, send `em one, send `em all" -- sent Werth and saw him get thrown out easily on shortstop Corey Seager's relay.

Wasn't even close.

And in the sort of blink-and-you-missed-it game-shifting sequence, Werth's inning-ending, overzealous bid to score was followed immediately by Pederson's homer on Scherzer's first -- and, it turned out, only -- pitch of the seventh. Pederson connected with a 96 mph slider, sending it to the opposite field and over Werth's head in left.

That began a rally that included a pinch-hit RBI single by 37-year-old pinch hitter Carlos Ruiz, helping LA go up 4-1.

Then came Heisey's homer.

Then came Jansen.

And then came Kershaw.

The West champions Dodgers are back in the NLCS for the first time since 2013, but they've lost in their past three trips to that round, failing to make it to the World Series since they won their most recent championship in 1988.

The East champion Nationals, under first-year manager Dusty Baker, are one-and-done in the playoffs yet again. They won their third NL East title in the past five years, but each time were eliminated in the NLDS. Washington was beaten in five games in 2012 by the St. Louis Cardinals after leading 6-0, then 7-5 entering the ninth, at home in Game 5, and in four games in 2014 by the San Francisco Giants.

Take it back further, and a baseball club based in the nation's capital hasn't won a postseason series since the old Senators were the 1924 World Series champions.

Young Urias
Dodgers LHP Julio Urias, who turned 20 in August, became the youngest pitcher to appear in the postseason since Cincinnati's Don Gullett was 19 in the 1970 World Series, the Dodgers said, citing STATS. Urias entered in the fifth and threw two scoreless innings. He walked Harper, then picked him off first base.

`RIP' Harambe
According to the Cut4 Twitter feed, Harper paid tribute to Harambe, the gorilla killed at the Cincinnati Zoo, with an "RIP" decal on his bat knob during batting practice before the game.

Trainer's room
Nationals: Baker said before the game that RHP Stephen Strasburg would not be able to pitch in the NL Championship Series if Washington were to advance. "He won't be available for the next series," Baker said. "It would be a miracle if he was." That doesn't really come as a surprise, given that Strasburg has been sidelined since hurting his pitching elbow in early September and cut short a bullpen session Tuesday.

MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

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MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

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LOS ANGELES -- Justin Turner hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

The red-bearded slugger connected on the 29th anniversary of the Dodgers' last game-ending postseason homer: Kirk Gibson's famous pinch-hit drive to beat Oakland in the 1988 World Series opener.

"One of my earliest baseball memories, I was 4 years old at my grandma's house watching that game in `88 and seeing Gibby hit that homer," a smiling Turner said. "So yeah, it feels pretty cool. I thought about doing the fist pump around the bases, but we'll wait until we get to the World Series for that, hopefully."

Turner drove in every run for Los Angeles, going the other way for a tying single in the fifth before sending a long shot to center field off John Lackey in the ninth. A fan wearing a blue Dodgers jersey reached over a railing to catch the ball on the fly.

Turner's second homer of the postseason ended another dramatic night for the Dodgers, who remained unbeaten in these playoffs and moved within two wins of their first World Series appearance since 1988.

"It's very cool, and J.T., we were talking about it in there after the game," manager Dave Roberts said. "Twenty-nine years to the day. It was special. Our guys feel it."

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Midseason acquisition Yu Darvish starts for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks.

Yasiel Puig drew his third walk of the game leading off the ninth, and Charlie Culberson bunted him to second. After losing pitcher Brian Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, Chicago manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen for the 38-year-old Lackey, who pitched on consecutive days for the first time in his 15-year career.

Lackey got the call over All-Star closer Wade Davis, and the veteran starter walked Chris Taylor on six tense pitches.

Turner stepped up and ended it with his fourth career playoff homer. He's been at his best in October, batting .377 with 22 RBIs in the postseason.

"We've been doing it all year long," Turner said. "We're never out of a game. As long as we have outs left, we're going to keep fighting."

Completing the poetry of the moment, a fan in a Chase Utley jersey in the center-field bleachers caught the ball in his glove.

Addison Russell homered in the fifth for the Cubs, who are down early in this rematch of the 2016 NLCS. Chicago won that series in six games and went on to its first World Series championship since 1908, while the Dodgers have been absent from the Fall Classic since 1988.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got the victory with a hitless ninth despite hitting Anthony Rizzo on the hand with a one-out pitch. That ended the Los Angeles bullpen's impressive streak of 22 straight Cubs retired to begin the NLCS, but the Dodgers have thrown eight hitless and scoreless innings of relief in the NLCS.

After a collective offensive effort drove the Dodgers to a 5-2 win in Game 1, Turner did it all in Game 2. He has 10 RBIs in the Dodgers' five postseason games, getting five in the playoff opener against Arizona.

Jon Lester yielded three hits and five walks while failing to get out of the fifth inning in the shortest start of his long postseason career, but the Dodgers couldn't take advantage of a rare shaky night by the Cubs' star left-hander.

Rich Hill struck out eight in five more impressive innings for the Dodgers, but he was pulled for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson in the fifth in a debatable decision by Roberts.

Russell was off to a 4-for-22 start in the postseason with nine strikeouts before the slugging shortstop put a leadoff homer into the short porch in left field.

Turner evened it moments later by poking a single to right after a leadoff double by Culberson, the Dodgers' improbably successful replacement for injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager.

The Dodgers chased Lester with two outs in the fifth, but reliever Carl Edwards Jr. came through after several recent postseason struggles, striking out pinch-hitter Chase Utley and then pitching a strong sixth.

Lester was the co-MVP of last season's NLCS, winning Game 5 at Dodger Stadium and yielding two runs over 13 innings in the series. He had nothing near the same success against the Dodgers' revamped lineup in this one, issuing four walks in the first four innings and repeatedly escaping jams.

Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward held up Turner in the third when it appeared he could have scored from first on Cody Bellinger's double to the gap.

Javier Baez, the other co-MVP of last season's NLCS for Chicago, got to third base in the third with one out but also was stranded.

Up next
Cubs: Hendricks dominated Chicago's playoff opener with seven scoreless innings against the Nationals, but yielded four runs in four innings during the team's wild Game 5 victory in Washington. He is starting on normal rest.

Dodgers: Darvish was outstanding in Game 3 against the Diamondbacks, earning his first career postseason victory with seven strikeouts over five innings of two-hit ball. He was acquired 

MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

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MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

HOUSTON — Jose Altuve raced home on Carlos Correa's double in the ninth inning, Justin Verlander struck out 13 in a complete game and the Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Saturday for a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Correa also homered, but Houston needed a daring dash from Altuve to get Verlander a win. The 5-foot-6 AL MVP front-runner reached with a one-out single against closer Aroldis Chapman , then sprinted around from first base on Correa's shot to right-center field, sliding past catcher Gary Sanchez as he misplayed a short-hop. Altuve had two more hits and is 13 for 23 (.565) this postseason.

Verlander pitched another gem for the Astros, setting a postseason career best for strikeouts and allowing five hits in his second career complete game in the postseason. He threw a season-high 124 pitches and retired baby Bronx Bombers Aaron Judge, Sanchez and Greg Bird in the top of the ninth.

In the bottom of the inning, Judge picked up Correa's hit in right field and threw toward second base. Shortstop Didi Gregorius fielded there, and his throw beat Altuve to the plate by a few steps. But Sanchez bobbled the one-hop as Altuve slid by, and the Astros mobbed Correa in shallow center field. Altuve pointed toward Correa and his teammates from behind the plate (see full recap).

Puig, Taylor power Dodgers past Cubs in NLCS Game 1
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Taylor hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning, Yasiel Puig added a homer and an RBI double to his dynamite postseason, and the Los Angeles Dodgers overcame a short start by Clayton Kershaw for a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night in the NL Championship Series opener.

Charlie Culberson doubled, drove in the tying run and scored another while replacing injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager for the resourceful Dodgers, who improved to 4-0 in this postseason.

With another collective offensive effort and four innings of perfect relief pitching, Los Angeles calmly overcame an early two-run deficit and took the first game of this rematch of the 2016 NLCS, won in six games by Chicago on the way to its first World Series championship in 108 years.

Game 2 is Sunday, with Rich Hill starting at home against Chicago's Jon Lester (see full recap).