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Dodgers Postseason: LA’s History in Winner-Take-All Game 5

It’s do or die in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Dodgers
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 08: Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates his two run homerun with Cody Bellinger #35 and Corey Seager #5, to take a 9-4 lead over the Atlanta Braves, during the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium on May 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

After such a dominant win in game three, the stars seemed aligned for the Dodgers to punch their ticket to the NLCS the next game. But Max Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman had other plans, and now it’s back to Chavez Ravine for a win-or-go-home game five. 

It’s a nerve-wracking scenario, but fortunately not one the Dodgers are strangers too. They’ve had their season on the line in game five three times in franchise history. Here’s how they did each time. 

1981 NLCS vs. Montreal Expos – Won 2-1 

From 1969 to 1984, the NLCS was a best-of-five rather than seven. The Dodgers played in that format for the pennant five times, and the only one that went the distance was this white-knuckle battle with the Montreal Expos. 

After barely missing the playoffs in 1980, the stakes were high for both teams, and they battled accordingly. After the Dodgers took the first game, the Expos answered by winning the next two. However, game one-winner Burt Hooton led the Dodgers to victory in game four, setting up the final game in Montreal. 

However, it was one that had to wait. A snowfall pushed the game back to a dreary Monday afternoon, with Olympic Stadium only two-thirds full. But the few there witnessed a postseason game for the ages. Ray Burris and Fernando Valenzuela both went eight innings with only a single run allowed. 

Then, in the ninth, one of the greatest moments in Dodger history unfolded. Expos ace Steve Rogers was brought on in relief, and Rick Monday drove a ball to deep right field that outfielder Andre Dawson ran as if he could track it down. He had no chance. 

Valenzuela pitched in the bottom half, but ran into trouble with two baserunners. Luckily, Bob Welch came in to get the final out and secure the pennant. 

The Dodgers would go on to win the World Series against the Yankees. The Expos, meanwhile, never made the playoffs again in Montreal, and to this day Montreal natives bemoan the pain of “Blue Monday.” 

2015 NLDS vs. New York Mets – Lost 3-2 

34 years later, the Dodgers would get the chance to host an elimination game five. They and the NL East champion Mets had alternated winning the first four games, and now it was a marquee match-up of Zack Greinke and Jacob deGrom to decide who would face the Cubs in the NLCS. 

Things started promisingly. Daniel Murphy continued his series rampage with an RBI double in the first, but the Dodgers answered two two runs in the bottom half courtesy of Justin Turner and Andre Ethier. 

From there on, however, deGrom knuckled down and held the Dodgers’ bats in check. The turning point came in the top of the fourth, which started with (what else?) a Murphy single. He eventually went to second on a Lucas Duda walk. Except… 

Due to the shift, no one was covering third base, and Murphy sprinted to steal it. He then came home on a game-tying sacrifice fly by Travis d’Arnaud. Murphy wasn’t done yet, clubbing yet another solo homer in the sixth for a 3-2 lead. 

It was all that was needed, as deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia combined to secure the victory. The Dodgers lost in the first round for the second year in a row, and Don Mattingly was out as manager shortly thereafter. 

2016 NLDS vs. Washington Nationals – Won 4-3 

Now here’s the one we really want to dwell on. Down 2-1 in the series, the Dodgers sprang to life in game four at home thanks to Chase Utley and Kenley Jansen. Game five in D.C. was a match-up of (fittingly) Max Scherzer and Rich Hill plus the Dodgers bullpen. 

For the first six innings, the Nats were in control, taking a 1-0 lead early on a Danny Espinosa RBI single off Hill. Joe Blanton and Julio Urias kept Washington off the board, and in the seventh the tide began to turn. Joc Pederson immediately led off with a solo shot off a fatigued Scherzer. 

The floodgates kicked open, with Carlos Ruiz adding an RBI to take the lead. Then, the eternally clutch Justin Turner laced a two-run triple to center to pad the lead 4-1. 

But the Nationals answered quickly. Pinch-hitter and former Dodger Chris Heisey took Grant Dayton deep on a two-run blast in the bottom half, making it 4-3. Then, in an audacious move in-step with the bullpen emphasis of the entire 2016 playoffs, Roberts turned to Jansen. Despite loading the bases, Jansen escaped with a gutsy strikeout of Anthony Rendon to preserve the lead. 

After pitching the eighth soundly, Jansen put two runners on in the ninth with one out. Then it came time for Roberts’ boldest move: Clayton Kershaw, who had pitched to the point of exhaustion just two days before, was called upon for the save. It was his first relief appearance in seven years, to raise the stakes further. 

His first test was a scary one, Dodger Killer Daniel Murphy. Murphy, who had single-handedly destroyed Los Angeles the year before, popped up meekly to second. Then it was down to Wilmer Difo, who was retired on a strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out to secure the victory. The Dodgers were off to the NLCS for the first time in three years. 

One last thing to consider: the Dodgers’ two game five elimination wins have come against the same franchise, as the Expos would later become the Nationals. History like that has no real bearing on the present, but it’s kind of comforting to know.

Written by Marshall Garvey

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