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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Clayton Kershaw delivers in extra innings to help Dodgers beat Braves and reach NLCS

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ATLANTA — Aside from Troy Tulowitzki’s 21st-inning homer at Yankee Stadium, it was hard to find a baseball game with an even greater finish than the Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. And for the Los Angeles Dodgers, this one had special meaning.

For the first time in the franchise’s 113-year history, the Dodgers won a baseball game in extra innings, and they did it by putting the finishing touches on a series against the Atlanta Braves in which they overcame an early four-run deficit. By virtue of an 8-6 victory in 11 innings, they escaped the Atlanta suburb of Atlanta with a 3-2 series victory and a return trip to Los Angeles to face the New York Mets in the NLCS.

“It’s really a nice way to go out,” said Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ on-again, off-again ace who delivered one of his best outings in the NLCS.

Kershaw didn’t deliver for much of the first five innings against the Braves. But he allowed just one run over the last six innings of a game in which the Dodgers rallied from a 6-2 deficit. By the time he finally made it to the mound in the 11th, the Dodgers trailed by just one run.

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Dodgers fans have seen this before, when Kershaw won 14-inning games during the previous two seasons, in three of the games of the Dodgers’ last World Series in 2016. But Kershaw’s streak in the NLCS, in which he pitched 24 innings and allowed just three runs, was nothing like those forays, in which he has given up one run or less in 16 of the games he has started in the postseason.

It started in the fourth inning, when the Dodgers erased a deficit in which Kershaw had fallen behind 3-0. He allowed three hits in a row, walked two batters and surrendered a run-scoring single to Freddie Freeman.

By then, Kershaw had given up two runs and found himself in a difficult spot. So he trotted out of the on-deck circle, looking to summon his best work to make a save. “I wanted to go out there and save the bullpen,” he said. “We’ve got a shot. This isn’t over, so get me out there and see what we can do.”

After eight relievers had worked so many innings in the series, this was something different. Kershaw’s mission was to go out and deliver eight innings. He fell into some trouble in the ninth, allowing a single, walking a batter and giving up a double. But Kershaw worked his way out of the jam.

He provided a heroics-worthy final inning in the 10th, when he allowed just one hit — an infield single by Johan Camargo — while striking out two and ending the inning.

“It was remarkable,” said Russell Martin, who had two hits. “I don’t know if anyone has ever done that ever before.”

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