The Los Angeles Dodgers moved within a win of the MLB World Series after defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 5-2 in game five of the National League Championship Series.
Milwaukee got creative to start the game with their pitching staff, but a brilliant start from a future Hall of Famer in Clayton Kershaw led the Dodgers to victory on Wednesday.
The Dodgers lead the NLCS 3-2 ahead of game six in Milwaukee on Friday.
The unlikeliest of heroes
Austin Barnes was probably the last person Dodgers fans thought would help their team win a postseason game. The backup catcher batted .205 with four home runs and 14 RBIs for the season and was one for seven in the playoffs coming into game five.
But when Barnes stepped to the plate with Chris Taylor on third base and one out in the fourth inning, the utilityman came through as he grounded a single up the middle to tie the game. Barnes broke the Dodgers' 0 for seven streak with a runner on third and less than two outs in the NLCS while improving the team's batting average to .300 in the playoffs.
And again, Barnes was literally the least likely person to come through in that situation. Barnes hit .111 with runners in scoring position for the season, which was last in MLB among players with 50 or more at-bats (319 qualifiers).
Counsell looked like a genius, until he didn't
The Brewers manager really was playing chess when everyone else was playing checkers on Wednesday. Craig Counsell allowed starter Wade Miley to pitch to one batter (a walk to Cody Bellinger) before he removed him for Brandon Woodruff with no outs in the first inning.
But Counsell could not have predicted the effect that move would have later in the game. Barnes, who was in the line-up instead of Yasmani Grandal, drove in the tying run. Max Muncy, who was in the line-up because Los Angeles really did not have another choice, drove in the go-ahead run. Joc Pederson, who came into replace Freese after one at-bat, also tallied a base hit.
Counsell attempted to control the Dodgers' line-up in game five, but as much as he tried to dictate the game by affecting Los Angeles' side, he could not keep them from scoring runs with moves he more or less forced.
Good Kershaw, Bad Kershaw
Kershaw has a reputation for being bad in the postseason, but let's look at this situation for what it is: Kershaw has good starts in the playoffs and he has bad ones, as well. He is not some terrible pitcher when the lights are brightest.
Do not believe us? Kershaw has registered 12 quality starts (6 IP, 3 ER or fewer) in 22 career postseason opportunities. In eight of those 12 starts, Kershaw allowed one earned run or less in at least six innings of work. Kershaw has his bad starts yes, but he is not awful. He allowed one earned run in seven innings in game five.
And while everyone loves to rag on him, think about this: The Dodgers ace has a better career postseason ERA (4.26) than Chris Sale (5.85), David Price (5.42), CC Sabathia (4.31) and Luis Severino (6.26). He is not far behind Corey Kluber (3.97). Kershaw gets a bad rap, but he should not be considered a bad postseason pitcher.
|Sarri questions Chelsea motivation after Arsenal surrender|
|Emery urges Arsenal to find balance after downing Chelsea|
|Koscielny hails Arsenal fighting spirit in Chelsea win|
|Pellegrini: It was not a good idea for Arnautovic to play|
|Iran v Oman: We´re not satisfied yet, says Al Mahaijri|
|Carbery sends Munster through and ends Exeter´s lingering Champions Cup hopes|
|Dyche defiant despite offside call|
|Hasenhuttl rates Everton win as Southampton´s best|
|Benitez looking up the table after Schar inspires win over Cardiff|
|RB Leipzig 0 Borussia Dortmund 1: Witsel restores six-point cushion|
|Swansea City 1 Sheffield United 0: McBurnie punishes wasteful Blades|
|Cardiff sign Sala from Nantes for club-record fee|
|Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0: Lacazette and Koscielny fire Gunners to rousing derby win|
|Huesca 0 Atletico Madrid 3: Dominant Atleti keep pressure on Barca|
|Rashford arguably league´s best striker with Kane out - Solskjaer|
|Hafeez plays steady hand as Pakistan punish Proteas´ patient approach|
|Klopp: Exceptional Salah would have scored even more up front!|
|Suspected ´serious´ Verratti injury leaves Tuchel with mixed emotions|
|We needed to rediscover our best form - Ramos pleased for Real Madrid fans|
|City bought Guardiola four full-backs! - Mourinho aims dig at Man Utd transfer policy|
|Valverde ´not frustrated´ amid De Jong & Vela links|
|Championship Review: Leaders Leeds beaten at Stoke as Villa end Hull run|
|Bournemouth rode their luck, admits Howe|
|Barca boss Valverde calls for clarity on RFEF rules|
|Bears rack up 107 points in routing Enisei en route to quarter-finals|
|Paris Saint-Germain 9 Guingamp 0: Verratti injured for rampant champions|
|Solskjaer: I´ll remember managing United for the rest of my life|
|Palace win a ´massive relief´ for Liverpool boss Klopp|
|Salah fourth fastest to 50 goals in Premier League history|
|Real Madrid 2 Sevilla 0: Solari´s side take over third spot|
|Watford 0 Burnley 0: Wood denied winner by contentious call|
|Liverpool 4 Crystal Palace 3: Salah reaches 50 thanks to Speroni shocker|
|Newcastle United 3 Cardiff City 0: Schar double moves hosts out of bottom three|
|Southampton 2 Everton 1: In-form Saints steer clear of trouble|
|Bournemouth 2 West Ham 0: Wilson and King sink Pellegrini´s men|
|Manchester United 2 Brighton and Hove Albion 1: Record-breaking win for Solskjaer|
|Pelicans star Anthony Davis out for one to two weeks with sprained finger|
|Verratti hobbles off for PSG against Guingamp|
|Brook ponders next move after missing out on Khan|
|Mick Schumacher: The Ferrari academy graduates who made it to F1|
|Thailand v China: Lippi aims to overcome War Elephants and reach last eight|
|I deserved red card, says Wolves boss Nuno|
|Mick Schumacher joins Ferrari Driver Academy|
|Jared Goff not worried about Superdome noise: ´When it´s loud, we love it´|
|Rooney urged Rashford to run at defenders|
|Former Springbok Lambie retires from rugby aged 28|
|Spygate: EFL confirms 11 clubs have made contact about Leeds|
|When it´s loud, we love it - Goff ready for New Orleans noise|
|Wolves 4 Leicester City 3: Jota hat-trick drama piles pressure on Puel|
|´Asparagus´ Zverev joins frustrated Djokovic in round four|
|Lowry takes Abu Dhabi title at the last after ding-dong Sterne battle|
|Rooney: United should go "all out" for Pochettino|
|Djokovic frustrated by ´unnecessary´ Australian Open floodlights|
|Jordan v Vietnam: Park expecting ´aggressive´ encounter|
|Serena and Halep book blockbuster, Osaka won´t throw in the towel|
|Brady: Mahomes has had ´spectacular season´|
|Halep not intimidated by Serena anymore|
|Farrell´s Six Nations preparations hit by thumb injury|
|Pogba confident Manchester United can reach top four|
|Alexander-Arnold embodies Liverpool spirit - Klopp|
|Stoinis shoots Stars to Melbourne derby victory|
|A-League Review: Glory held in stalemate as Sydney close the gap|
|DeMarcus Cousins ´felt like a kid on Christmas´ in Warriors debut|
|Alexander-Arnold signs long-term contract at Liverpool|
|Pochettino eyes Messi-esque role for Alli|
|Halep sets up mouth-watering Serena showdown by conquering Venus|
|Wilder-Fury II expected for April 27 or May - Warren|
|Celtics´ Kyrie Irving on technical: If someone questions your manhood, you got no choice|
|Serena would ´love´ Halep clash|
|Djokovic sees off Shapovalov at Aus Open|