Andrew Friedman: Dodgers Did Not Discuss Clayton Kershaw Potentially Pitching In NLDS Game 5
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

When Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen walked Jayson Werth to put two on with one out in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the National League Division Series and the Dodgers leading, 4-3, manager Dave Roberts made a call to his bullpen.

Jansen had thrown a career-high 51 pitches over 2.1 innings, and Roberts wanted a left-hander to face the Nationals’ best hitter in Daniel Murphy. Grant Dayton wasn’t an option as he’d already pitched in the seventh and allowed a two-run homer.

Luis Avilan was available, though Murphy hit a two-run, game-tying single off him in Game 3. So Roberts did what no one expected him to do, what he even said before the game he wouldn’t do, and brought in Clayton Kershaw to get the final two outs of the game.

Kershaw got Murphy to pop up to second base, and then struck out pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo to end the game and send the Dodgers to the NL Championship Series for the first time since 2013.

According to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the club discussed multiple scenarios for Game 5, but using Kershaw was not among them:

“We didn’t even talk about it,” Friedman said. “We walked through so many different scenarios. None of them involved Kershaw.”

Friedman also told MLB Network that he initially believed Kershaw walking to the bullpen was a bit of gamesmanship. “The game played out in a crazy way,” Friedman said.

“Kersh is as good of a competitor as I’ve ever been around. To see him walking out to the bullpen, at first I thought it was a decoy. Then I thought about it. I knew it was Kersh, I knew what his mindset was, and I know how persuasive he is. I know he was down there lobbying really hard to get into the game. It was absolutely huge.”

Just two days prior to Game 5, Kershaw threw 110 pitches on three days’ rest to help the Dodgers defeat the Nationals and stave off elimination. The “all hands on deck” mentality Thursday night took a turn when Jansen was needed in the seventh inning, and the Dodgers next-best option, Joe Blanton, entered in the third.

The unique roll of the dice nonetheless was a microcosm of the Dodgers’ season. And they now get to continue pursuing their first World Series since 1988.