Clayton Kershaw waited for a moment like this one. The game’s greatest pitcher of his generation has always left his fans in the postseason wanting more.
However, on Thursday, the three-time Cy Young winner went the extra mile to help send he and his Dodgers teammates into the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs.
On just 48 hours of rest following a 110-pitch outing in Game 4, Kershaw jogged out of the Dodgers bullpen to record the last two outs of Thursday’s Game 5. He came into the game when Washington had the tying run at second base and Daniel Murphy at the plate.
After only seven pitches, Los Angeles players were on the field jumping in celebration, as Murphy popped up to second and Wilmer Difo a pinch-hitter struck out ending the game.
In a period of seven days during the series, Kershaw threw 218 pitches between two starts and his Thursday relief appearance.
Fans from a generation ago likely thought of Randy Johnson jogging out of the bullpen for a relief appearance in Game 5 after a 117-pitch effort during Game 3; or just two years ago when Madison Bumgarner threw four innings of relief to save Game 7 of the World Series after only three days of rest following a shutout he threw in Game 5.
Following the game on Thursday, Kershaw said he was both physically and mentally exhausted following his Game 4 outing. His manager, David Roberts had said he would definitely not use Kershaw during Game 5.
However, Kershaw requested to pitch and his manager obliged, as both knew if the Dodgers would lose, it would be with their best out on the pitching mound.
Los Angeles will now play the Cubs. The pitching staff, especially Kershaw and Kelsey Jansen was overworked in the Washington series and needs time to recover.
Both may or may not be ready when the NLCS starts with Game 1 on Saturday or even in Game 2. However, if it were not for the two of them, the team would not even be facing the Cubs.
Kershaw will not win another Cy Young award this year due to missing so much time with a back problem, but he showed once again that he is the best pitcher in baseball.