The Los Angeles Dodgers are headed to the National League Championship Series. Clayton Kershaw sent them there when he recorded the first save of his MLB career. It was a surprise appearance, just two days after Kershaw threw 110 pitches in Game 4.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker may have been the most surprised.
What do you expect from the Dodgers with all hands on deck in Game 5?— Eric Stephen (@truebluela) October 12, 2016
Dusty Baker: "I know Kershaw ain't pitching. Thank God."
That was a fairly reasonable thought at the time. Kershaw pitched in Game 4 on just three days rest. With Game 5 just two days later, it seemed impossible the Dodgers would even think of using him. But, he volunteered for duty and turned a throw day into a save.
Not only did Kershaw come back to haunt Baker on the mound, he stepped up in the biggest moment of the season. The Nationals had runners on first and second with just one out. Trailing 4-3, they had the winning run on base and their hottest hitter, Daniel Murphy, at the plate. It was the perfect set up for a walk-off win.
Kershaw shut that down.
He got Murphy to pop out to second base, then struck out pitch-hitter Wilmer Difo to end the game and the series.
Dusty Baker will probably never think a pitcher is unavailable ever again.