By Emmett Siegel
The Nationals exorcised their playoff demons Wednesday night with a decisive Game 5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Nats have battled back all season with their motto “stay in the fight,” and this game was no different.
Washington pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, struggled early, allowing a two-run home run to Max Muncy in the first inning and a solo shot by Enrique Hernandez in the second. The Nats found themselves down 3-0 -- the same score they trailed by against the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card game earlier this postseason -- before rallying back in the eighth inning for a season-saving win.
Later in the game, Strasburg began to settle in, shutting down the potent offense of the Dodgers, who mashed their way en route to a 106 win regular season, best in the National League. But the momentum of the game shifted towards the Nats when 20-year-old phenom Juan Soto hit an RBI single to right field in the sixth inning to cut the score to 3-1.
In the eighth inning, Soto tallied another RBI, this time a game-tying home run, going back-to-back with MVP candidate Anthony Rendon. Despite a couple of close calls and hard hit balls, the National's seemingly shaky bullpen held the Dodgers scoreless, sending the game into extra innings.
Following two walks and a Rendon double, 36-year-old second baseman Howie Kendrick stepped up to the plate and crushed a grand slam over the center field fence, giving the Nationals a four-run lead and assuring the first postseason series win in the franchise’s 50 years of existence. Moments later, center fielder Michael A. Taylor made a diving catch to seal the victory for the Nationals, and a celebratory dog-pile ensued on the pitcher’s mound before champagne popped in the Washington clubhouse.
The Nationals will now take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series for a chance to advance to the World Series and continue the pursuit of their first championship.