The Los Angeles Dodgers’ storybook 2019 season came to an abrupt end on Wednesday in a shocking 7-3 loss to the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium.
The Nationals rallied late to secure their first NL Championship Series berth in Washington franchise history, scoring all seven of their runs from the sixth inning and on.
The Dodgers squandered an early 3-0 lead and dominant performance by Walker Buehler, who allowed only run in 6.2 innings of work. He threw a season-high 117 pitches and fell one out short of getting past the seventh inning alone.
With two runners on base, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts summoned Clayton Kershaw out of the bullpen for his second appearance of the series — the first of which as a reliever. He made quick work of Adam Eaton, striking him out on three pitches to preserve the Dodgers’ 3-1 lead.
Kershaw returned to the mound in the eighth inning and was tasked with retiring the heart of the Nationals lineup. He promptly served up back-to-back home runs to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto — allowing Washington to even up the score at three apiece.
Kershaw was pulled by Roberts just six pitches into his appearance in favor of Kenta Maeda, who limited the damage from there by striking out the next three batters.
Howie Kendrick’s go-ahead grand slam against Joe Kelly in the 10th inning ultimately solidified the Nationals’ win. Kershaw nevertheless put the Dodgers’ loss on his shoulders and vowed to improve his perception in the postseason.
Many of Kershaw’s teammates came to his defense following another rocky playoff performance. “No, that’s not fair at all,” Max Muncy said of Kershaw placing the entire blame on his shoulders.
“We had opportunities to win, not only in this game but other games. So, no, it’s not all on him at all. It’s on all of us. We win as a team, lose as a team.”
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game,” Kenley Jansen added. “We’re a team, so put the blame on everybody. We win together, we lose together. He has our back, we’ve got his back. We’re just going to walk out of this with our chin up and be a team.”
Cody Bellinger found it admirable that Kershaw accepted the blame for the Dodgers’ loss based on his performance. “That’s incredible,” Bellinger said.
“He’s been a leader on this team. Obviously not the results he wanted, but at the end of the day we’re all a team. We win as a team and lose as a team. It’s not on him, it’s not on anyone in particular. As a whole we lost.”
Rich Hill echoed similar sentiments. “We wouldn’t be here without him,” Hill said of Kershaw’s contributions during the regular season. “Ultimate respect for him. This means so much to everybody in this locker room, and that’s the tough part. People say it’s just a game. It’s a lot more than that.”
Kiké Hernandez also came to the defense of Kershaw. “It’s unfair for him to take the full blame,” Hernandez said. “We had two games to close out the series and we didn’t.
“It wasn’t because of Clayton. We were up 3-0 and had many chances to add onto the lead, and we didn’t. That’s why we lost the game. For Kersh to say that, it speaks to how good of a teammate he is. He wears his pride on his sleeve. It’s on everybody.
“We gave it our all and flat out lost. We got beat.”