Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw is a picture of despair post allowing back-to-back homers to ... [+]


The Los Angeles Dodgers have been eliminated from the postseason for the last seven years running. They haven't won the World Series since 1988. Let that sink in.

In all seven seasons they won the National League West, this season with a franchise record 106 victories.

Big deal.

Andrew Friedman, the president of baseball operations, is at the end of his five-year contract. Dave Roberts, who has three years to go on his, made a bevy of questionable decisions in the finale of their National League Division Series.

They will both have to face the music.

Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals are traveling on to St. Louis where they will open the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium III on Friday with a chance to win the first pennant in franchise history.

The last and only time the then Montreal Expos went this far was after the 1981 strike-shortened spilt season. They were knocked out, coincidentally, by the Dodgers, on a Rick Monday homer at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

The Nationals returned the favor, beating the Dodgers on Wednesday night, 7-3, in 10 tense innings at Dodger Stadium.

Both best-of-five series ended in five games.

The Expos, born in 1969 as an expansion team, moved to Washington in 2005 and were rechristened the Nationals. The Expos/Nationals hadn't been to the postseason from 1981 to 2012. Since then, they had lost in the NLDS four times.

Let that also sink in for a minute.

"I couldn't be prouder than to be part of this franchise," said Davey Martinez, finishing up his second season as Nats manager. "To the fans, who showed up for all those miserable days we had early, thank you. Appreciate it. And yeah, we're playing for the NL championship. That's a lot of fun."

The next few weeks should be interesting for both the Washington and Los Angeles franchises.

For the Dodgers, a club with oversized expectations, there will be a lot of soul searching.

They lost the World Series the last two years and now an NLDS on their home turf. They dropped a Game 7 to the Houston Astros in 2017, a Game 5 to the Boston Red Sox last year, and Wednesday night's debacle when Clayton Kershaw couldn't hold a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning, giving up tying homers on consecutive pitches to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto.

Howie Kendrick hit a grand slam in the 10th off reliever Joe Kelly, ending the Dodgers' season.

The pitching decisions were at best questionable and flew in the face of how the club operates. They are analytically driven, but the decision to let Kershaw pitch to the core of the Nats' lineup was made as much on sentiment as it was regarding anything else.

"Clayton, it's not about analytics, he's one of the best pitchers in the game," Roberts said.

Kershaw is not what he once was. He was the loser in last year's Games 1 and 5 of the World Series, and in Game 2 of this just-concluded series. His postseason numbers for a pitcher of his ilk have been horrendous even going back to his halcyon days: a 9-11 record and 4.43 ERA, exactly two runs higher than his 2.44 regular season mark.

Thirty two postseason appearances is not a small sample size, either.

"His velo isn't what it used to be," Martinez said. "But he knows how to pitch. And that's why he's so successful."

Roberts had the right idea when he brought the left-handed Kershaw in to replace Walker Buehler to face lefty-swinging Adman Eaton with runners on first and second and two out in the seventh.

Buehler had thrown a season-high 117 pitches, which is uncharacteristic and tells you what kind of confidence Roberts had in his relievers. It was the 11th time in 32 starts (including twice this postseason) Buehler had thrown 100 or more pitches.

"Walker was throwing the baseball well, nothing was compromised," Roberts explained. "Once he walked Trea Turner, I thought he'd had enough. I thought he'd emptied the tank."

Enter Kershaw, who struck out Eaton looking on four pitches to end the threat. And that should have been good enough.

The numbers might have dictated taking Kershaw out of the game, replacing him with Kenta Maeda.

But Roberts went with his gut.

"We had Clayton ready for anything today. For him to throw four pitches and then to go out there and get two hitters, I felt really good about that," Roberts said. "I don't think it's an analytic question. It's a guy I believe in. That I trust. It didn't work out."

No kidding, Sherlock. By the time Roberts went to Maeda, who struck out the three batters he faced, the damage was done.

But that wasn't the end of it. Roberts brought in the rickety Joe Kelly to pitch the ninth. Bingo. Three up, three down.

The manager got away with one. But tempting fate, he came back with Kelly for a second inning in the 10th. Kelly walked Eaton, allowed a Rendon double, and then intentionally walked Soto to load bases with none out. Kenley Jansen was ready and warmed up in the bullpen.

Roberts let Kelly stay in the game. Two batters after Kendrick hit the grand slam, he left with an 0-1 record and a 23.14 ERA (six earned runs on five hits in 2 1/3 innings) to show for the series.

Jansen recorded the last two outs.

"Joe Kelly came out, was very rested, and threw the ball well, was very efficient," Roberts explained. "And my eyes tell me that he should go back out there because he was throwing the baseball really well."

That doesn't explain why Kelly was left in there after blowing up. Managers have been fired for a lot less, and that will be a big part of the club's soul searching during the next few weeks.

The decisions were really indefensible.

"If the blame falls on me I have no problem with it," Roberts said. "My job is to put guys in the best position to have success. If it doesn't work out there's always going to be second guessing. I have no problems wearing the brunt of that. That's OK."

Let that sink in as well.


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