This series was an intriguing one on so many levels. First and foremost it included a pair of perhaps the most talented rosters in the league with a ton of star power on both sides. It also featured fan bases who have been tormented in recent years by good teams that have not been able to get over the hump. For the Nationals, that hump was the Division Series, while the Dodgers had been able to make it further but not all the way. Someone was going to be disappointed again in this game five, and it turned out to be the home crowd. The Dodgers got going early against Stephen Strasburg, getting a two-run homer in the first and a solo shot in the second to make it a 3-0 game.
That was the score for the next few innings before Washington broke through in the sixth to get their first run on the board. Clayton Kershaw would come out of the bullpen with two on and two out in the seventh and got a huge strikeout to end that inning. Dave Roberts stuck with his longtime ace in the eighth, though, and that was a mistake. Kershaw faced too batters in the inning and both — Juan Soto and Anthon Rendon — went deep. Just like that, this one was tied. Roberts would make another curious decision later, not only bringing in old friend Joe Kelly for the ninth but, after the righty got through that, bringing him out for the tenth. The heart of the order was coming up for the Nationals, but Roberts stuck with Kelly over Kenley Jansen. Kelly issued a walk, allowed a double and intentionally walked Soto to load the bases ahead of Howie Kendrick, who smashed a grand slam to give the Nationals a 7-3 lead in extras. That score would hold, and the Nationals finally advanced to the NLCS.
Sox Spin: There’s so much going on here I don’t really know where to begin. I guess it has to be with Kelly. I’ve said it before, but it’s really remarkable that a pitcher as uneven as Kelly was as dominant for as long as he was in 2018. The Red Sox don’t win the World Series without that, and it’s a reminder of how much luck goes into it. Roberts is also going to get a lot of blame for this one, as he should. It wasn’t just having Kelly in for the tenth, but also leaving Kershaw in to face Rendon and then Soto after that. It probably wouldn’t be fair and maybe this is just me reacting to the moment, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if this cost Roberts his job. Three straight years of bad endings with questionable decisions by him could get ugly.
There was certainly more talent in the Nationals-Dodgers game and the pitching matchup was much more intriguing, but I was more excited about the Cardinals-Braves Game Five on Wednesday. Part of it was the bad blood brewing between the two sides, but also just the fact that all of the games to that point had been fantastic. I suppose we were due for a stinker, and boy did we get one. All the Braves did is put up one of the worst first innings in baseball history, with Mike Foltynewicz on the mound to start. I won’t go through all of it, but the end result was a 10-0 lead for the Cardinals before the Braves even got a chance to hit. Needless to say, it was over before it really began. There was a lot going on in that first inning, but a big error by Freddie Freeman certainly didn’t help as the star first baseman put a bow on what was a disappointing series for him. So, the Cardinals move on to face the Nationals in the NLCS. That series will begin on Friday in St. Louis at 8:08 PM ET.
Sox Spin: There’s not really a whole lot of Red Sox connection here.
Brian McCann announces retirement
After the Braves game ended and they were eliminated, catcher Brian McCann announced his retirement. The longtime Brave was certainly over the hill at this point in his career, but finishes a very productive career in which he lands firmly in the Hall of Very Good. He looked like a potential Hall of Famer for the early parts of his career, but I don’t think he did enough in the latter portion to quite get into Cooperstown. He’ll be remembered as a hard-ass who decided to be an enforcer of the way the game was played and he certainly earned that reputation. At the same time, he was also a hell of a baseball player and one of the best catchers in baseball for a stretch around the turn of the decade.
Sox Spin: McCann never played for the Red Sox, but many wanted him to. He was a free agent after the 2013 season, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia was on his way out the door. Boston ended up going with A.J. Pierzynski that year while the Yankees signed McCann. He wasn’t the same hitter he once was in those three years with New York, but he was a solid average bat and that was better than what Boston got out of the position over that stretch.