Dodgers eke past Nationals 6-5 to force NLDS Game 5

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
4 Comments

The Dodgers overcame a troublesome seventh inning, defeating the Nationals 6-5 on Tuesday evening to even the NLDS at two games apiece and forcing a Game 5.

Starter Clayton Kershaw, pitching on three days’ rest, was a little shaky early, allowing a leadoff single to Trea Turner followed by a walk to Jayson Werth in the first inning. Turner would come around to score on a one-out single by Daniel Murphy, putting the Nationals up 1-0. The Dodgers immediately answered in the bottom half of the first, as Adrian Gonzalez launched a two-run home run to right-center off of Nationals starter Joe Ross.

The Nationals tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the third as Daniel Murphy knocked in Turner again, this time with a sacrifice fly. And again, the Dodgers answered with two runs in the bottom half. Kershaw led off with a double and came home on a single by Justin Turner. Following that, Ross issued back-to-back walks to Gonzalez and Josh Reddick to load the bases. Ross then hit Joc Pederson with a pitch to force in a run and push the Dodgers’ lead to 4-2. The Dodgers tacked on one more run in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out single by Reddick followed by a double from Pederson.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts tried to get Kershaw through the seventh, but it wasn’t happening. The lefty gave up a leadoff single to Danny Espinosa. He seemed to be finding his way out of the inning by striking out Pedro Severino and getting pinch-hitter Chris Heisey to strike out, but he gave up another single to Turner, then walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Roberts finally relieved Kershaw after 110 pitches, bringing in Pedro Baez. Baez threw one pitch and hit Jayson Werth, forcing in a run. Out came Baez, in came Luis Avilan. Avilan allowed a two-run single to Daniel Murphy, tying the game up at 5-5. Out came Avilan, in came Joe Blanton. Blanton, at long last, ended the inning by striking out Anthony Rendon.

The Dodgers were able to overcome that seventh-inning adversity, breaking through for a run in the bottom of the eighth inning. With two outs, Nationals reliever Blake Treinen hit Andrew Toles with a pitch. He then allowed a single to pinch-hitter Andrew Ethier. Chase Utley came up and singled to right field, bringing Toles home to break the 5-5 tie.

In the top of the ninth, closer Kenley Jansen had his stuff working. He struck out Stephen Drew and Turner, then got Harper to ground out to end the game.

The two teams will take Wednesday off, then play Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday at 5:00 PM EDT at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The starters have yet to be announced.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
0 Comments

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.