The Los Angeles Dodgers are becoming a bit of a tortured franchise. They have won seven straight division titles - something incredibly impressive - but they are already out of the 2019 playoffs. They lost Game 5 of the National League Division Series at home to Washington.
Since the Dodgers started this run, four different teams have won the American League East title. But just one has won in the National League West.
So the heartbreak was big when they blew a 3-0 lead after two innings and a 3-1 lead through seven, on Wednesday night. Los Angeles star pitcher Clayton Kershaw gave up homers to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto that tied the game at 3-3 in the eighth. Kershaw was not on the mound when Howie Kendrick hit his grand slam in the 10th, but he still blamed himself for the loss.
He has had some rough moments in the playoffs, and this one is right up there. The Dodgers were a few outs away from winning. Kershaw has the lowest career ERA among starters in the live-ball era (2.44), but his postseason ERA is 4.43 in 158 1/3 innings.
When the game was over and the Dodgers were headed home after 106 wins in the regular season, Kershaw fell on the sword. Hard.
“I had one job to do, to get three outs. I got one out, and didn’t get the other two. I cost us the game right there,” Kershaw said. “That’s a terrible feeling. No excuses. I just didn’t make pitches, and it got hit over the fence.
“I’m not going to hang my head. I’m going to be here, continue to try and fight, continue to try and compete. I’m not going to shy away from it,” Kershaw said. “Everything people say is true right now about the postseason, and I understand that. There’s nothing I can do about it right now. It’s a terrible feeling.”
Watching Kershaw’s postgame interview early Thursday morning, I was impressed with how well he handled himself and what he said. He faced every question and kept pointing the finger at himself.
He never pointed out that the Dodgers still had chances to win after he gave up the homers or that Rendon hit a pretty good pitch. There was nothing about missing location or mechanics. It was, “I cost us the game right there.”
When you have let down your teammates and an entire fan base with the baseball world watching, I think handling yourself as Kershaw did is much harder than it looks. Respect to him.
In the AFL: Orioles pitching prospect Alex Wells got another win on Wednesday with three scoreless innings with four strikeouts in the Arizona Fall League. In six games for Surprise, Wells is 3-0 with an ERA of 0.84. In 10 2/3 innings he’s allowed 12 hits and one run, with two walks and 12 strikeouts.
Wells went 8-6 with a 2.95 ERA this year for Double-A Bowie, helping the Baysox reach the Eastern League Championship Series. In two playoff games, he allowed three runs in 13 innings. He’s just been consistently good all year and that has continued in Arizona.
Right-hander Dean Kremer threw a scoreless inning yesterday in the AFL. Kremer and infielder Mason McCoy will play in Saturday’s Fall Stars game. Kremer is 0-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four games. In 10 innings, he has yielded five hits and two runs with two walks and 12 strikeouts. McCoy is batting .316/.435/.421 in 10 games for Surprise.
In the LCS: The 106-win Dodgers are out and so are the 97-win Braves. When the National League Championship Series starts tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals will host the Washington Nationals. The Nats trailed by two runs in the eighth inning in both the wild-card game and in Game 5 against the Dodgers, but won both. They went just 15-24 (.385) in the regular season against the other four NL playoff teams, but now they are one step from the World Series.
After whipping Tampa Bay in Game 5 by a 6-1 score last night, Houston will host the New York Yankees starting Saturday night in the opener of the American League Championship Series. Houston won 107 games and is looking for its second World Series title in three years. The Yankees won 103 games and are looking for their first World Series win since 2009. It’s a matchup of heavyweights and should be some series.
By the way, the Rays continue to be the little engine that could and do more with less. They innovate and just continue to often stay in contention in baseball’s toughest division. Respect to them, too.
I’ll predict that Houston will play Washington in the World Series and beat the Nats. Who have you got?