WASHINGTON — Nationals manager Dusty Baker said he spent Thursday morning packing for a late-night trip to Chicago.
Turned out to be a waste of time for the former Cubs manager dreaming of a postseason reunion at Wrigley Field.
The Dodgers — getting a two-out save from rotation ace Clayton Kershaw — ruined Baker’s plan by rallying for four runs in the seventh inning en route to a 4-3 victory in a wild Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday, setting up a battle with the Cubs for the NL pennant.
Game 1 of the NL Championship Series is Saturday night at Wrigley, where Cubs left-hander Jon Lester will face Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda.
The Cubs will face a Dodgers team with a rotation that might require some introductions.
Maeda and left-hander Rich Hill, a former Cub, have never faced the Cubs before. Kershaw, who escaped a one-out jam with runners at first and second in the ninth inning, missed the Cubs during the teams’ seven meetings during the regular season.
“It’s the same way for [both sides],” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Although I believe a pitcher that is pitching well should have an advantage over a team that hasn’t seen him to that point, normally. Kershaw we’ve seen in the past, we know how good he is. Hill I’ve never seen in person, Maeda I’ve seen on TV a little bit.
“I wouldn’t worry about that. … This time of year you see good pitching. I honestly believe our guys will be equal to the challenge. I know they’re going to ready, we feel pretty good about ourselves, we’ll continue to work the moment and we’ll be fine.”
The Cubs and Dodgers last met in the postseason in 2008, when the Cubs were swept in the NLDS.
Just like the Cubs’ experience against the Giants in the NLDS, the Dodgers-Nationals NLDS was a thrilling adventure.
After a quiet night at the plate for both teams, the game turned in a 1-hour, 6-minute seventh inning that featured eight pitchers and six runs from the two teams.
Four of those runs belonged to the Dodgers, who took the lead for good.
Joc Pederson launched Max Scherzer’s first pitch of the seventh for a home run, ending the 20-game winner’s outing and pumping new life into the Dodgers. That home run chased Scherzer and set the stage for a rally off the Nats’ bullpen that put the Dodgers ahead 4-1.
Pederson is the first Dodger to homer in a postseason elimination game since Rick Monday in Game 5 of the 1981 NLCS.
The Nationals rallied for two runs in their half of the inning, prompting Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to summon closer Kenley Jansen with no outs. The creative move paid off as Jansen eventually escaped a bases-loaded jam to preserve the Dodgers’ 4-3 lead.
Jansen escaped another jam in the eighth and ran out of gas in the ninth, throwing a career-high 51 pitches before turning it over to Kershaw with one out and runners and first and second.
Thursday’s game had belonged to the Nats before Pederson’s blast. A Danny Espinosa RBI single in the second off Hill gave the Nats a 1-0 lead.
Pitching on three days’ rest, Hill was lifted with two outs in the third. Joe Blanton kept the Nationals hitless for the next 1 1/3 innings before turning the game over to 20-year-old Julio Urias to open the fifth. That made Urias the youngest postseason pitcher since Don Gullett in the 1970 World Series.
And Urias quickly made his presence known, picking off Bryce Harper at first base to end a fifth-inning threat.