The Los Angeles Dodgers faced elimination Tuesday afternoon at home, but they forced a decisive Game 5 against the Washington Nationals with a 6-5 win thanks to a game-winning RBI single from Chase Utley in the eighth inning.  

Joe Blanton notched the win after he pitched 1.1 no-hit innings on the heels of a tumultuous seventh-inning sequence. Starter Clayton Kershaw (11 strikeouts, two walks, seven hits in 6.2 IP) was superb on short rest even though he struggled with his command early. 

Trea Turner and Bryce Harper led off the top of the first by reaching base, and Daniel Murphy rolled a single into right field with one out to score Turner to put the Dodgers in a rare early hole with Kershaw starting, according to Inside Edge on Twitter: 

By the time the top half of the opening frame came to a close, Kershaw had tossed 27 pitches. As’s Eddie Matz explained, those inefficiencies didn’t bode well for the Dodgers: 

With L.A. in need of a spark following Kershaw’s sluggish start, Adrian Gonzalez delivered. 

After Justin Turner was hit by a pitch, Gonzalez stepped up and crushed a two-run home run to right field when starter Joe Ross let a fastball cut back over the plate up in the zone: 

The Nationals proceeded to tie things in the third on a Murphy sac fly that scored Turner, but things didn’t remain deadlocked for long. 

Ross gave up two hits, two runs and two walks in the third inning, and manager Dusty Baker pulled the 23-year-old after he drilled Joc Pederson with the bases load to give the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. 

All told, Ross managed three strikeouts and two walks while allowing three hits and four earned runs in 2.2 innings. 

Conversely, Kershaw was able to settle down. 

The three-time Cy Young Award winner retired the side in order in the fourth and fifth innings, and in doing so he was able to stabilize his pitch count, according to the Southern California News Group’s J.P. Hoornstra: 

And as the ace found his groove, the Dodgers offense continued to churn out runs. 

Pederson smacked a double to left field that scored Josh Reddick from first, and the RBI that gave Los Angeles a 5-2 lead represented a breakthrough for the Dodgers, according to MASN’s Mark Zuckerman: 

While the Nationals searched for answers, Kershaw looked sharp. 

The southpaw—who entered Tuesday with a 1.89 ERA in three starts on short rest, per—notched 10 strikeouts by the time the sixth inning was over, which marked the fourth time in Kershaw’s postseason career that he tallied double-digit K’s, according to Jon Weisman of the team’s official blog and magazine. 

Those numbers were stellar considering Kershaw was on the mound just four days earlier, but things unraveled some in the seventh inning. 

Kershaw was pulled with two outs in the seventh after he loaded the bases, and the bullpen couldn’t work out of the jam. Pedro Baez plunked Werth to make it a 5-3 game, and Murphy tied things up with a two-run single off Luis Avilan.

Yahoo Sports’ Big League Stew noted Murphy has been a virtuoso at the plate in big spots: 

The Dodgers could have folded at that point, but they stood tall and delivered in the eighth inning.

After Andrew Toles was hit by a pitch and Andre Either notched a pinch-hit single, Utley stepped to the plate and drove in the go-ahead run to propel the Dodgers to within a game of the NLCS.

The Dodgers will now travel back to the nation’s capital with momentum in hand after they staved off elimination in pursuit of their first National League Championship Series appearance since 2013. 

The Nationals, meanwhile, will need to put Tuesday’s loss in the rearview mirror as they seek the franchise’s first NLCS appearance since moving to Washington. 

And if Murphy, Werth and Turner can continue to buoy the offense and force a shaky Dodgers bullpen into action early, the NL East champions could be in position to exorcise their postseason demons and send the Dodgers packing. 


Postgame Reaction

Once the Dodgers put the finishing touches on their Game 4 win, the team’s official Twitter account relayed video of their celebration: 

“Man, that was a hard-fought game on both sides,” Baker said, according to Weisman.

Looking ahead, Baker told reporters he’s glad his team won’t have to face Kershaw again this season, according to True Blue LA’s Eric Stephen: 

However, the Nationals will have to face Rich Hill, according to the Los Angeles Times‘ Andy McCullough: 

The Nationals, on the other hand, will counter with Max Scherzer, according to the Washington Post‘s Jorge Castillo

“Biggest start of my career,” Scherzer said, according to MASN’s Dan Kolko. “Biggest start of my life.” 

“It’s gonna be a heck of an experience,” he added, per Kolko. “It comes down to one game. Winner-take-all.”

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