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Dodgers ride big seventh inning to defeat Nationals 4-3, advance to NLCS

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The Dodgers scored four times in the seventh inning to erase a 1-0 deficit and claim a 4-3 victory over the Nationals in the fifth and final game of the NLDS on Thursday night.

The Nationals grabbed an early 1-0 lead against Dodgers starter Rich Hill in the second inning. Daniel Murphy led off with a single, then stole second base with one out. Ryan Zimmerman walked, and Danny Espinosa followed up with a single to plate Murphy. But that would be it for the Nationals’ offense until after the Dodgers had their big inning.

Nationals starter Max Scherzer was fantastic in his second start of the NLDS. He brought a perfect game into the fifth inning, but that was ended when Josh Reddick led off the inning with a single to right field. Scherzer started the seventh inning, but surrendered a leadoff home run to Joc Pederson, going to the opposite field. Scherzer’s left aterwards. Six-plus innings, five hits, one earned run, two walks, seven strikeouts on 99 pitches.

Lefty Mark Rzepczynski replaced Scherzer, but walked Yasmani Grandal. Manager Dusty Baker, in what would become a theme, came out to remove his reliever. Right-hander Blake Treinen came in to face Howie Kendrick, who singled to left field, putting runners on first and second base with no outs. Treinen was able to strike out Charlie Culberson on a failed bunt attempt. Lefty Sammy Solis replaced Treinen, facing pinch-hitter Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz snuck a single past the outstretched glove of third baseman Anthony Rendon, scoring pinch-runner Austin Barnes to break the 1-1 tie. Corey Seager flied out, prompting Baker to come out to the mound again. Shawn Kelley replaced Solis and immediately gave up a two-run triple to Justin Turner, making it a 4-1 game. Kelly left with an injury and lefty Oliver Perez came in to face Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez, at long last, ended the inning with a ground out to second baseman Murphy.

The Dodgers were able to patch things together despite getting only 2 2/3 innings from Hill. Hill gave up the lone run on three hits and a pair of walks with six strikeouts on 55 pitches. Joe Blanton got four outs. Julio Urias tossed a scoreless fifth and sixth inning.

Grant Dayton took the hill to start the seventh for the Dodgers but immediately got in hot water. He walked Danny Espinosa on four pitches, then served up a two-run home run to pinch-hitter Chris Heisey, making it a 4-3 game. Dayton then served up a single to Clint Robinson before departing. Closer Kenley Jansen entered and things continued to get tense. After getting Trea Turner to fly out, Bryce Harper singled to left field, setting up a first-and-third situation. Jayson Werth battled Jansen in a seven-pitch at-bat, but ultimately struck out. As Harper was running when Werth struck out, first base was open so the Dodgers intentionally walked Daniel Murphy, bringing up Anthony Rendon. Rendon, much to the chagrin of Nationals fans, struck out to end the threat.

Jansen came back out for the eighth. After issuing a leadoff walk to Stephen Drew, the right-hander was able to see his way out of the rest of the inning unscathed. He got Danny Espinosa to pop up on a bunt attempt, Pedro Severino to fly out to center, and Michael Taylor to strike out. While the Dodgers went down in order in the top of the ninth, Clayton Kershaw — the guy who pitched Game 4 on Tuesday — walked out to the bullpen and began to warm up.

No, Kershaw didn’t start the inning. Jansen remained in the game, on for his third inning of work at 37 pitches. He struck out Trea Turner to bring up Bryce Harper. Jansen walked Harper on four pitches. Nope, no Kershaw. The FS1 camera caught manager Dave Roberts flashing his index finger at Jansen and saying “one more.” Jansen ran the count full on Werth before walking him to put runners on first and second with one out. Kershaw time.

Murphy popped up a 1-0 Kershaw fastball, bringing the Nationals down to their final out. Wilmer Difo pinch-hit for Mark Melancon, but Kershaw got him to fan on a curve in the dirt. Ruiz gathered the ball and tossed the ball to Gonzalez at first base to wrap it up. Kershaw got a win and a save — a save! — in the NLDS.

After Thursday night’s win, the Dodgers move on in the postseason. They’ll open up the NLCS on Saturday in Chicago against the Cubs in an 8:00 PM EDT game.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.