Thursday is a travel day in the National League Championship Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers bound for Milwaukee one victory away from their second consecutive World Series appearance thanks to a stellar performance by Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw limited the Milwaukee Brewers to one run and three hits over seven innings and retired the final 13 batters he faced in the Dodgers 5-2 victory at Dodger Stadium Wednesday afternoon that gave them a three games to two lead in the best-of-seven series.
“To go back to Milwaukee up 3-2 as opposed to being down 3-2 is huge for us,” Kershaw said. “It’s a tough place to play. It’s a great team. And it’s been a battle every single game we’ve played them so far, and we don’t expect anything different when we go back.
“We’re in a much better spot now … and I’m glad I was able to contribute.”
Game 6 will be played Friday at Miller Park. Game 7, if necessary, would be played Saturday, also at Miller Park.
Teams with a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven NLCS have a 15-6 series record. Teams trailing 3-2 with Games 6 and 7 scheduled at home have a 4-8 record.
The Dodgers have a 5-1 record when taking a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series. The only loss came in the 1952 World Series when they were based in Brooklyn and faced the New York Yankees.
Kershaw struck out nine and walked two in his first appearance since his shortest postseason start. Kershaw allowed five runs, four earned, and six hits in three innings in last Friday’s 6-5 loss in Game 1 at Miller Park.
“Other than wanting to pitch, I don’t really think about the one before,” Kershaw said after improving his career postseason record to 9-8. “And after this one I’m not going to think about this one, either.”
The Dodgers broke a 1-1 tie with two runs in the sixth. Justin Turner led off with a single and moved to second one out later when Manny Machado was hit by a pitch. Max Muncy singled in Turner and advanced Machado to second. Yasiel Puig’s two-out pinch-hit single drove in Machado.
The Dodgers added two runs in the seventh. Turner singled in Kershaw, who walked with one out. Cody Bellinger, who doubled, scored on pinch-hitter Brian Dozier’s ground out before a crowd announced at 54,502.
The Brewers opened the scoring in the third. Orlando Arcia singled with one out, moved to second when reliever Brandon Woodruff drew a walk from Kershaw and scored on Lorenzo Cain’s double.
Milwaukee threatened to score a second run with runners on second and third with one out. Kershaw struck out NL batting champion Christian Yelich on four pitches for the second out, but walked the next batter, Ryan Braun, to load the bases.
Kershaw got ahead of Jesus Aguilar 0-2. Aguilar fouled off the next three pitches, then Kershaw threw a slider in the dirt for ball one. Aguilar fouled off a curve ball, then swung and missed at slider.
“I was thankful to get ahead of him in that at-bat,” Kershaw said. “And I was trying to stay on the edges as best I could. He’s a great hitter, he had a great year.
“I was trying to do my best to work the bottom of the zone, work the edges, get him to chase as best I could. Fouled off some really good pitches. Fortunate to get a slider past him for that last pitch.”
The Brewers did not get a batter on base against Kershaw for the rest of the time he was on the mound.
Pedro Baez pitched a perfect eighth inning in relief of Kershaw with one strike out. Rookie left-hander Caleb Ferguson started the ninth and got Yelich, a Westlake High School graduate, to ground out to Muncy, the Dodger first baseman.
Ryan Madson replaced Ferguson and got Braun, a former Granada Hills High standout, to ground out to Machado, the Dodger shortstop, for the second out.
Aguilar and pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson hit back-to-back doubles for a run to prompt Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to bring in closer Kenley Jansen to face Chatsworth High School alumnus Mike Moustakas.
Jansen struck out Moustakas on three pitches to end the game for his third save of the 2018 postseason.
The Dodgers out-hit the Brewers 9-5 and were four-for-13 with runners in scoring position after going six-for-30 over the first four games in the series. Milwaukee was two-for-five with runners in scoring position. The Dodgers left seven runners on base, the Brewers four.
Milwaukee starter Wade Miley walked Bellinger, the Dodgers leadoff hitter, on five pitches in the bottom of the first, then was replaced by Woodruff.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell confirmed after the game that the “plan all along” was to replace Miley with Woodruff after one batter and have Miley start Game 6.
“Our lineup today was different than the other lineup when we faced Miley,” Roberts said. “You’ve got to prepare for the unexpected. It was very unconventional, but we were prepared for anything.”
Woodruff, the second of six Milwaukee pitchers, was charged with the loss, allowing three runs, two earned, and five hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out eight.
The is the first time the Brewers have lost back-to-back games since Sept. 15-16. Milwaukee entered the NLCS with an 11-game winning streak, which it extended to 12 games with a 6-5 victory in Game 1. The Brewers have lost three of four games since then.
The Dodgers last made back-to-back World Series appearances in 1977 and 1978, losing to the Yankees both times.
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