For all the criticism the Los Angeles Dodgers have taken for a heavy reliance on the home-run ball, they awoke from a bit of a slumber in enough key moments for a 5-2 victory that began to feel like more of a rout of the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.
The Brewers’ attempt to deke the Dodgers into fielding a platoon-heavy lineup didn’t necessarily pan out, as both Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy started. So it went that Wade Miley walked Bellinger on five pitches to open the bottom of the first inning and then was removed.
The ‘start,’ on three days’ rest, was essentially treated as a bullpen day for Miley. He is now expected to start Game 6 on Friday. While the strategy was innovative, if not curious, it gave way to Brandon Woodruff.
Pitching for the first time since throwing two shutout innings out of the bullpen in Game 1, he largely shut the Dodgers down. It wasn’t until Joc Pederson’s leadoff single in the fourth inning that Los Angeles recorded their first hit.
It was all for naught as Manny Machado grounded into what was his second double play of the game. Trouble for Woodruff arose in the bottom of the fifth when Orlando Arcia’s throwing error put Chris Taylor at second base with nobody out.
Taylor promptly stole third and scored two batters later on Austin Barnes’ single that skipped off the mound and carried into center field. Woodruff then faced more traffic in the sixth inning as Justin Turner led off with a single and Machado was grazed with a pitch.
Muncy found a hole in the left side of the infield for a go-ahead RBI single that also kncked Woodruff out of the game. Yasiel Puig’s pinch-hit RBI single extended the Dodgers’ lead 3-1.
Despite being at 98 pitches, Kershaw was allowed to bat for himself with one out in the seventh inning. It paid off as he drew a second walk in the game, which was followed by Bellinger slicing a double to the left-center field gap.
The contact continued when Turner drove in an insurance run on a line-drive single to center field, and Brian Dozier’s swinging bunt scored Bellinger to extend the Dodgers’ lead to a decided 5-1 .
Making what could be his final start for the Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw allowed a single but a caught stealing helped him face the minimum through what was an efficient two innings. However, that changed in a 32-pitch third when the bottom of the Brewers’ lineup again proved to be problematic.
After Orlando Arcia hit one-out single, Kershaw inexplicably walked Woodruff and followed that by allowing an RBI double to Lorenzo Cain. Ryan Braun worked a walk to load the bases with two outs but Kershaw escaped the jam by striking out Jesús Aguilar.
Kershaw settled in from there, retiring 13 batters in a row to complete seven innings of one-run ball. He finished with three hits allowed, two walks and nine strikeouts.
After Pedro Baez worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning, Caleb Ferguson was used to retire Christian Yelich for the first out in the ninth. He then gave way to Ryan Madson, who allowed back-to-back two-out doubles, with Curtis Granderson’s driving in a run. That prompted Dodgers manager to call on Kenley Jansen for the final out.
The Dodgers will now look to close out the NLCS in Game 6 on Friday and advance to the World Series for a second consecutive season.
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