LOS ANGELES, CA — After leading for most of the game, the Dodgers gave up two home runs on two pitches in the seventh inning, swinging momentum for the Nationals in their 7-3 Game 5 victory at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday. Former Dodger Howie Kendrick hit a 10th-inning grand slam to put the Washington Nationals over the Dodgers, a stunning end for a team that dominated the National League all season.
The Nationals, the heavy underdogs of the series, notched their first Division Series win. An apparent collapse of the Dodgers bullpen after a stellar start by Walker Buehler brought their postseason to an early end — the earliest in four years. It was an ending made all the more bitter by the high expectations for the Dodgers after winning a franchise-record 106 games this season. Fans vented their disappointment by booing Manager Dave Roberts.
“Obviously very, very, disappointing is probably an understatement,” Roberts said. “But I think it’s just one of those things that we got beat and just disappointed for everyone.”
Roberts said he would have “no problem” if the blame for the loss falls on him.
“I feel that my job is to put guys in the best position to have success and if it doesn’t work out, there’s always going to be second-guessing and I got no problem wearing the brunt of that,” Roberts said.
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The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a two-run homer by their second batter, Max Muncy, and increased their lead to 3-0 on Kike Hernandez’s second-inning homer.
But the Dodgers were held to three hits over the final 10 innings to lose the best-of-five series three games to two.
Starter Buehler allowed one run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings, struck out seven and walked three. Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg allowed three runs and six hits in six innings, struck out seven and walked one.
Roberts took out Buehler after he walked Trea Turner on his 117th pitch to put runners on first and second with two outs in the seventh and replaced him with Kershaw.
“Once he walked Turner … I thought Walker had had enough,” Roberts said. “I thought he emptied the tank. So to get Clayton to get us out of that spot, I felt good about it.”
Kershaw struck out Adam Eaton to end the inning, but allowed home runs to the first two batters he faced in the eighth.
The Nationals tied the score on home runs on consecutive pitches by Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto on consecutive pitches off Kershaw in the eighth inning.
Soto singled in Rendon, who doubled, in the sixth for Washington’s first run.
Kenta Maeda relieved Kershaw, striking out the next three batters before a sellout crowd announced at 54,159.
Joc Pederson led off the first for the Dodgers with what was initially ruled a home run, but the call was overturned after an umpire review determined it to be a ground-rule double. Muncy followed by hitting a 3- 1 fastball for his third homer of the series.
Soto singled in Rendon, who had doubled, in the sixth for Washington’s first run.
This was the first time Washington won a postseason series. The Nationals had lost four division series, three in Game 5, including in 2016 to the Dodgers.
Washington will face the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, which will begin Friday in St. Louis. The Cardinals defeated the Atlanta Braves 13-1 Wednesday in Atlanta to win their division series three games to two.
The Dodgers won their seventh consecutive National League West title this season, but continued their postseason futility. They have not won the World Series since 1988. They lost the World Series in each of the past two seasons. The Dodgers never have reached the World Series in three consecutive seasons.
City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.