Giants

Kershaw closes out Nats, Dodgers to face Cubs in NLCS

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USATSI

Kershaw closes out Nats, Dodgers to face Cubs in NLCS

BOX SCORE

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.

POLL: Giants memorable moments -- Ishikawa's HR wins '14 Pennant vs. Winning '12 World Series

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AP

POLL: Giants memorable moments -- Ishikawa's HR wins '14 Pennant vs. Winning '12 World Series

NBC Sports Bay Area is looking back at the Giants' 60 Memorable Moments since the franchise moved from New York to San Francisco. Tune into Giants Pregame Live at 6 p.m. to see the next two moments you can vote on! Then, after the Giants and Rockies conclude on Saturday, tune into Postgame Live to see which moment will move on.

1. Travis Ishikawa's walk-off homer wins 2014 NL Pennant (Eight-time winner -- Defeated Tim Lincecum strikes out 10 in 2010 World Series clincher)

(From former Giants third base coach and current NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Tim Flannery)

After winning a one-game Wild Card showdown in Pittsburgh and then dramatically defeating the heavily favored Washington Nationals 3 games to 1, we found ourselves one series away from another trip to the World Series. After four tough fought games against the St. Louis Cardinals, we were leading the NLCS 3 games to 1 and back in San Francisco with our ace Madison Bumgarner on the mound with a chance to make history once again.

Bum would be facing the Cards veteran ace Adam Wainwright, who was very familiar pitching win-or-go-home games. The Cards struck first,  scoring one in the 3rd inning, but Joe Panik hit a two-run homer to take the lead and get the packed house in China Basin on their feet and going wild. The Cards came right back to quiet the crowd and steal back the momentum with two homers of their own and take back the lead 3- 2. Bumgarner and Wainwright both went into shut down mode retiring the rest of the hitters they saw. With the Cardinals leading by one, relief specialist Pat Neshek took over in the 8th only to surrender a huge pinch-hit homer to Michael Morse who went down and hooked a slider up and out to left field to tie the game.

Santiago Casilla took over in the 9th and after loading the bases, Jeremy Affeldt came in once again and shut down the Cardinals and keep the game tied into the bottom of the 9th. 

With Michael Wacha taking the mound for the Cardinals, the crowd at AT&T came to their feet knowing one run would send us to our 3rd World Series in the last five years. Pablo Sandoval singled to start the inning and with one out, Brandon Belt walked. Joaquin Arias pinch ran for Sandoval. Travis Ishikawa came to the plate to hit and with the count 2-0, he went down and crushed a low, sinking fastball to right field hitting a line drive that looked like it had a chance to get over the head of the right fielder. As the third base coach, I immediately checked my runner at second base, and Árias did the correct thing, going half way on the ball in the air. When I looked back to find the ball, everything went into slow motion and deftly quiet, at least in my head. Then I realized the ball was over the outfielder and we were going to win the Pennant.

At that moment, the quiet in my head erupted into total chaos as the ball continued into the seats for a walk-off, Pennant winning moment that would be part of history forever. Bedlam broke out with Ishikawa running around the bases with his teammates running down the line with him jumping and screaming. Jake Peavy sprinted by me and ran on the field to jump on Travis at second base thinking he hit a double, not a homer to win it. Waiting at home plate, the rest of the team was delirious waiting on Ishikawa to run through the obstacles of people, flying helmets and tears until he touched home plate and sent the Giants to the World Series and his legacy into the history books forever right next to the Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard ‘round the World” as the “Giants win the Pennant, the Giants win the Pennant, the Giants win the Pennant.” 

Fans, friends and family danced and partied on the field and then into the Clubhouse to celebrate all night, still not believing what had just taken place. A very surreal moment that will never be forgotten.

VS.

2. Giants sweep Detroit to win 2012 World Series thanks to Marco Scutaro's game-winning hit

(From Alex Pavlovic)

The Giants fought so hard to stay alive early on in the 2012 postseason, but the final steps to a second title in three years ended up being relatively painless. 

After overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS, the Giants swept the powerful Detroit Tigers, clinching the Series with a 4-3 extra-innings win in Detroit. The Game 4 victory was the seventh straight for the Giants, who outscored the Cardinals and Tigers 38-7 during that stretch. 

"I'm just glad the whole world got to see what this team is about," Ryan Vogelsong said after the World Series. "Starting with Game 5 of the NLDS, we played our best baseball of the season. I always knew we were capable of this."

Appropriately, the final victory came with a comeback. The Giants trailed early after Miguel Cabrera's two-run homer, but grabbed a Game 4 lead when Buster Posey took Max Scherzer deep in the sixth. The Tigers came right back to tie it, setting the stage for one last Marco Scutaro moment. The postseason star drove Ryan Theriot in with a single in the top of the 10th, and Sergio Romo took over from there. 

Romo got Austin Jackson and Don Kelly swinging before freezing Cabrera with one of the most memorable pitches in franchise history, a 2-2 fastball right down the middle. On a cold night in Detroit, the Giants poured out of their dugout to celebrate for the second time. 

"We bought into something you don't see very often," Hunter Pence said. "We bought into playing for each other and loving each other."

VOTE HERE

Giants rookie Andrew Suarez shows competitiveness when Bruce Bochy pulls him

Giants rookie Andrew Suarez shows competitiveness when Bruce Bochy pulls him

SAN DIEGO — The two rookie pitchers who have helped solidify Giants manager Bruce Bochy’s rotation go about their business in different ways. You can see the fire in Dereck Rodriguez’s eyes as he stands on the mound, and there seems to be a certain intensity with everything he does on the field. Andrew Suarez, on the other hand, often seems to be playing a stress-free game of catch. 

But on Monday, Suarez showed what you knew was there. You don’t get to this level without being ultra-competitive, and the rookie let his guard down for a split-second when Bochy came out with the hook after just 87 pitches en route to a 4-2 win over the Padres. Suarez briefly threw his hands up, and the disappointment was clear on his face as he walked off the field. A few moments later, he found his manager in the dugout. 

“I just apologized to him. I thought I showed him up,” Suarez said. “That’s the last thing I’m trying to do.”

Bochy didn’t mind one bit. 

“I don’t want them to (want to) come out,” he said. “He’s a competitor. We had our guys fresh, [the relievers] have been throwing the ball well.”

Ultimately, Tony Watson got out of the eighth and Will Smith closed out the win. Suarez got the victory, his seventh, and showed a little fire in the process. The Giants knew it was there. It just took a tough decision for it to be made public. 

“My pitch count was low for being that deep in the game,” Suarez said. “I thought I would finish it. I was surprised, but you have to go to the bullpen. We have a good bullpen.”

Suarez said he hoped to match Chris Stratton’s complete game from Friday night, but the Giants are handling Suarez and Rodriguez a bit differently down the stretch, trying to keep some innings off their arms even as they go all the way through the end of September. Bochy liked Mark Melancon against the Padres coming up, regardless of how many pitches Suarez had thrown. 

In the end, it was the best of both worlds for the Giants. They got out of the inning and got the win, and they learned a bit more about a rookie who has been one of the biggest bright spots of a down year. 

“He said it was ok,” Suarez said of his conversation with Bochy. “He liked that I was competitive.”