Chase Utley singled home the tiebreaking run with two outs in the eighth inning after the Dodgers’ bullpen faltered in relief of Clayton Kershaw, and Los Angeles avoided elimination Tuesday with a 6-5 victory over the Washington Nationals that forced a deciding Game 5 in their NL playoff.
Kenley Jansen worked the ninth for a save one day after giving up four late runs in a Game 3 loss, preventing the Nationals from clinching a post-season series for the first time.
Game 5 is Thursday in Washington, with 20-game winner Max Scherzer expected to pitch for the Nationals. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he will use left-hander Rich Hill and rookie Julio Urias, but did not announce which one will start.
Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer for the Dodgers, who turned to Kershaw on three days’ rest to salvage their season.
The score was tied 5-all with two outs in the eighth when Andrew Toles got hit by a pitch from Blake Treinen. Pinch-hitter Andre Ethier followed with a single to left and Utley singled to right, scoring Toles from second for a 6-5 lead.
Trailing 5-2 in the seventh, the Nats had runners on first and second against Kershaw with two outs. The crowd chanted Kershaw’s name before Bryce Harper drew an eight-pitch walk to load the bases and chase Kershaw, who walked off with his head down. He sat alone in the dugout with his head resting on his right hand.
That’s when the bullpen nearly gave the game away.
Pedro Baez came in and hit Jayson Werth with his only pitch, forcing in a run to make it 5-3. Baez got booed off the field.
Daniel Murphy’s single off Luis Avilan dropped between Toles and Joc Pederson in left-centre field, scoring two runs to tie it at 5. Avilan also heard boos.
Joe Blanton, who earned the win, retired Anthony Rendon on a swinging strikeout to end the inning.
Desperate to avoid another early playoff exit, the Dodgers turned to Kershaw, their three-time NL Cy Young Award winner who won Game 1 last Friday despite going just five innings and allowing three runs.
This time, he was charged with five runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out 11 — equaling his second-best post-season total — and walked two.
The left-hander was limited to 149 innings while compiling a 1.69 ERA during the regular season. He missed 2 1/2 months with a mildly herniated disk in his back.
Kershaw opened the game by giving up a leadoff single and a walk before Murphy’s RBI single.
The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning on Gonzalez’s two-run shot that scored Justin Turner, who was hit by a pitch from Joe Ross.
Werth’s RBI single tied it 2-all in the third.
Los Angeles again answered in the bottom of the inning, with Kershaw getting the rally going with a double to left field. He slid into second and clenched his fists in a rare show of emotion.
Kershaw scored on Turner’s single with two outs. Pederson got hit by a pitch from Ross with the bases loaded, forcing in Turner
Ross made his post-season debut for the Nationals, giving up four runs and three hits in 2 2/3 innings. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out three and walked two. He hasn’t pitched more than four innings since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 18.Report Typo/Error