With all of that October experience, no wonder Justin Turner and the rest of the Los Angeles Dodgers managed to produce a post-season inning unlike any other: seven runs, all scored with two outs and two strikes.
Turner’s three-run homer capped a startling and record-setting rally in the sixth as the Dodgers roughed up $140-million starter-turned-reliever Patrick Corbin and beat the Washington Nationals 10-4 on Sunday night to grab a 2-1 lead in their NL Division Series.
Russell Martin and pinch-hitter Kiké Hernández added a pair of two-run doubles in the sixth as LA became the first team in major league history to score that many two-out, two-strike runs in one post-season inning. Martin tacked on a two-run homer in the ninth.
The Dodgers can advance to the NL Championship Series for the fourth consecutive year by closing the best-of-five NLDS in Game 4 at Washington on Monday, when LA sends Rich Hill to the mound against Max Scherzer.
And to think: Things were not looking all that good for the Dodgers, who entered the sixth trailing 2-1 after Juan Soto’s two-run homer off eventual winner Hyun-Jin Ryu in the first and Max Muncy’s solo shot off Washington starter Aníbal Sánchez in the fifth.
That seemed to wake up LA’s offence.
Well, it was either that or the fact that Sánchez, who struck out nine, was gone to begin the sixth. In came Corbin, the lefty who started — and lost — Game 1 of the NLDS and hadn’t made a relief appearance since 2017, when he only made one.
It continued Nationals manager Dave Martinez’s penchant for pushing his starters to appear in relief in the playoffs, which had been deemed necessary because of his club’s NL-worst bullpen — and had been working.
Needless to say, not this time against the Dodgers, who lost in the World Series each of the past two years and led the league with 106 wins in 2019, 13 more than the Nationals.
After Cody Bellinger snapped his 0-for-8 start to the series with a single, Corbin struck out the next two hitters. That’s when it all fell apart for Washington.
Pinch-hitter David Freese, the MVP of the 2011 NLCS and World Series for St. Louis, singled to put runners on the corners for LA. Then Martin came through in his first game of this NLDS, hitting a two-run double on a 2-2 slider that landed on the warning track in left-centre, putting the visitors ahead 3-2.
Hernández connected on a 1-2 slider from Corbin for yet another two-run double to left-centre, making it 5-2 with a hit off the base off the wall.
After Muncy was intentionally walked, Corbin departed, replaced by Wander Suero, who promptly served up a full-count fastball that Turner lofted to the back of the visiting bullpen beyond left field.
Suddenly, it was 8-2, and with baseball’s ERA leader this season, Ryu, done after going five innings and allowing two runs, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pieced together the remaining 12 outs with five relievers.
That included closer Kenley Jansen, who hadn’t pitched in a game since Sept. 28, and threw a 1-2-3 ninth Sunday, including a pair of strikeouts.
Nationals: CF Victor Robles was out of the lineup with a strained right hamstring after getting hurt running to first base in Game 2. Michael A. Taylor started in Robles’ place and went 1 for 4.
Three-time Cy Young Award winner Scherzer was pushed back from Game 3 to Game 4. Scherzer entered these playoffs with his teams having lost his most recent seven post-season appearances, but Washington is 2-0 when he pitches so far this October, including a start in the NL wild-card game against Milwaukee and a one-inning, three-strikeout relief appearance in Game 2 at Los Angeles. That bullpen use led the Nationals to switch Scherzer’s start from Sunday to Monday. “He can beat you in the strike zone with three pitches. He can beat you out of the zone,” Roberts said. “He’s relentless.” Hill went 4-1 with a 4.25 ERA this season in just 13 starts; he spent time on the IL with a sprained right knee and a strained left forearm, activated for the last time less than a month ago. Hill hasn’t pitched more than three innings in an appearance since June. “Pitch count, whatever it is, I can’t control that,” the 39-year-old Hill said. “Whatever I can give the team, I’m going to give the team.”