Cincinnati Reds vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: 2020 NLCS simulation

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 17: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a single against the Cincinnati Reds during the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on April 17, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 17: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a single against the Cincinnati Reds during the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on April 17, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images) /
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Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Joc Pederson. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Joc Pederson. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

For the Los Angeles Dodgers, this was a day for Jocs as they bury the Cincinnati Reds.

With a chance to wrap up the NLCS at home, the Los Angeles Dodgers summoned Kershaw, the loser in that Game 1 pitcher’s duel, for a rematch with the guy who had beaten him, Gray. As in the fourth game, the Cincinnati Reds – trailing by 3 — needed a quick jolt and also as in the fourth game, they got it.

Aquino elevated to the leadoff spot by Bell on the idea that his power might provide an early lift, came through right on script. He hit Kershaw’s third pitch over the wall in center for a home run.

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That seemed to rattle Kershaw, who fanned Senzel but walked Suarez and gave up a base hit to Castellanos before coaxing a double-play ball out of Moustakas.

Gray came out hot, fanning the first four Dodgers he faced. But he walked Joc Pederson one out into the second, fired a pitch to the backstop that sent Pederson to second, then allowed a Max Muncy double that sent Pederson across with the tying run.

It was only a brief spasm of wildness, and Gray quickly recovered. He retired the next 10 Dodgers he faced three on strikeouts. Kershaw matched him, following Moustakas’ double-play ball by setting the Reds down in order in the second through the sixth innings. That gave him 16 consecutive retired hitters, six on strikes.

In the home fifth, LA edged in front when Barnes slapped a two-out single into center, and Kershaw, of all people, dropped an RBI double inside the right-field line.

That gave LA a 2-1 lead, but the decisive blow fell one inning later. After Gray retired the first two Dodgers in the bottom of the sixth, Turner worked him for a walk and Pederson lofted a towering fly ball that cleared the right-field barrier for a two-run home run.

The Reds finally mounted something approaching a rally against Kershaw in the seventh. The Dodger pitcher started it, banging a fastball off Suarez’s ribs. Castellanos drove a double into the left-center field gap, and Moustakas’ hit sent Suarez across. One out later, Votto’s fly ball carried deep enough to allow Castellanos to score a run that made it 4-3.

Cincinnati’s problem was they could never quite get control of the Dodger offense. In the bottom of the seventh, Gray walked Barnes with one out, prompting Bell to lift him for Reed. Pinch hitter Gavin Lux greeted Reed with a smash into the depths of the right-field corner scoring Barnes and allowing Lux to reach third with a triple. Betts followed with a run-scoring fly ball to make it 6-3, and after Seager singled Suarez threw wildly trying to retire Bellinger, allowing Seager to come all the way around with LA’s seventh run.

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With Kershaw having been lifted for pinch hitter Lux, the question then became whether the Dodger bullpen could protect that four-run lead over two innings. Roberts’ first choice to do so, Julio Urias, made things interesting. Pinch hitter Phillip Ervin, Aquino, and Senzel all singled off him, loading the bases and bringing Suarez to bat as the potential tying run. When Urias compounded his problems by hitting Suarez, forcing Ervin across, Roberts called on Pedro Baez to replace Urias.

It was a difficult situation – bags full, lead run at the plate, none out – but Baez proved the master of it. He fanned Castellanos, fanned Moustakas, and then capped the inning by getting Freddy Galvis to swing through a third strike, terminating Cincinnati’s last best hope.

Opting to ride with Baez rather than take chances on Jansen, Roberts left his set-up man in to finish off the NLCS in the ninth. He did so at the cost of a two-out base hit to Jesse Winker, following that by striking out Aquino to end the game.

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Cincinnati            100    000    210  — 4  8  1

Los Angeles        010    012   30      –7  7  0

W: Kershaw. L: Gray. S: Baez.

Seager, with 10 hits (two of them home runs) and 10 RBIs in 21 at-bats, was voted the NLCS MVP.