Baseball / MLB

Kershaw delivers in Game 5 victory

AP

Clayton Kershaw bounced back from one of his worst postseason starts with one of his best, pitching the Los Angeles Dodgers past the Milwaukee Brewers 5-2 Wednesday to move one win from a return trip to the World Series.

The Dodgers took a 3-2 lead in the NL Championship Series, boosted by Max Muncy’s go-ahead single in the sixth inning. Kershaw held the lead, scoring an insurance run in the seventh and then exiting.

“To go back to Milwaukee up 3-2 as opposed to being down 3-2 is huge for us,” Kershaw said. “It’s been a battle every single game we’ve played them so far and we don’t expect anything different when we go back.”

Game 6 is Friday night in Milwaukee. The Brewers will start left-hander Wade Miley, who walked Cody Bellinger to open Game 5 before getting pulled in an interesting piece of strategy by manager Craig Counsell. Lefty Ryu Hyun-jin will go for the Dodgers.

“We’re in a good spot, man,” Counsell said. “We’re going back home, to me, in a position of strength.”

The Dodgers haven’t been in back-to-back World Series since losing to the Yankees in 1977 and ’78. They were beaten by Houston in Game 7 last year.

The teams reconvened less than 15 hours after the Dodgers eked out a 2-1 victory Tuesday night on Cody Bellinger’s RBI single with two outs in a 13-inning game that lasted over five hours.

Kershaw was well-rested and masterful in allowing one run and three hits over seven. He struck out nine, all on breaking pitches, and walked two.

Kershaw recovered from the shortest postseason start of his career. He lasted just three innings in losing the NLCS opener while giving up five runs — four earned — at Miller Park.

“I don’t know if it was that much better, just a little bit better execution maybe,” Kershaw said of his repertoire. “Maybe I threw some more curveballs today than I did in Game 1.”

The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner pitched in and out of trouble in the third, when the Brewers loaded the bases and scored their lone run. Kershaw struck out Jesus Aguilar to end the third, the first of 13 consecutive batters the left-hander retired.

Curtis Granderson hit an RBI double in the ninth. Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles’ third pitcher of the ninth, came in for the last two outs and the save.

Milwaukee star Christian Yelich, who nearly won the NL Triple Crown this season, was hitless in four at-bats. He is 3-for-20 without an RBI in the NLCS.

Red Sox hold off Astros

In Houston, Andrew Benintendi charged in hard and left his feet.

Make the catch, Boston wins.

If not . . . no telling.

On this night, though, even a ball the Red Sox couldn’t grab went their way.

Benintendi made a diving play in left field with the bases loaded for the final out and Boston held off the Houston Astros 8-6 Wednesday to take a 3-1 lead in the AL Championship Series.

“I thought I could catch it and timed it up well,” Benintendi said. “At that point, it was either do or die.”

Boosted by a questionable fan interference call and another home run from Jackie Bradley Jr. in a gripping, back-and-forth game, the Red Sox moved within one victory of their first World Series trip since winning the 2013 title.

Craig Kimbrel earned a shaky six-out save, helped by a rocket throw from right fielder Mookie Betts and Benintendi’s daring grab of Alex Bregman’s sinking liner. Had the ball scooted past Benintendi, it easily could have scored three runs and won the game.

“Beni took a shot. Had a great jump. And he got it,” Boston manager Alex Cora said.

With that, the Red Sox improved to 4-0 on the road in these playoffs and inched closer to eliminating the defending World Series champions.

“This game was incredibly good on both sides — great at-bats, great plays,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “The difference in that game literally was a couple inches.”

Game 5 is Thursday night in Houston, where ace Justin Verlander will pitch for the Astros with their season on the line. David Price, who was warming up in the bullpen late in Game 4, will start for Boston on three days’ rest after Chris Sale was ruled out Wednesday while recovering from a stomach illness.

The Red Sox have won three straight after a Game 1 loss, and this one came with some controversy.

Jose Altuve was denied a potential two-run homer in the first inning for Houston and called out after fans reaching for the ball interfered with Betts’ attempt at a leaping catch.

“Jose pays the biggest price because the trajectory of the ball looked like it was going to leave the ballpark,” Hinch said. “Changed that whole inning.”