The Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t receive a sterling performance from starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Friday, but a couple of home runs and a strong bullpen effort allowed the NL West champions to sneak out a 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
Washington now trails 1-0 with Game 2 slated for Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park. It got off on the wrong foot in search of the franchise’s first division series victory since 1981.
Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer allowed 17 first-inning runs this season—his most in any stanza, according to MASN’s Mark Zuckerman—and his trend of starting slow continued Friday.
Corey Seager stepped into the box as the second batter of the day, and he promptly crushed a solo home run over the center field fence in his first career postseason at-bat to give the Dodgers an early 1-0 lead, as MLB showed on Twitter:
The Nationals didn’t experience similar success on the scoreboard during the game’s opening stages, but they did make Kershaw work. Specifically, Washington loaded the bases in the second, and Scherzer worked an eight-pitch at-bat against the southpaw before he popped out to shallow left.
As the Washington Post‘s Jorge Castillo noted, the Nationals had to take solace in silver linings as the Dodgers maintained a slight edge:
Once that crisis was averted, the Dodgers collectively exhaled and continued to find success in spots against Scherzer.
After Andrew Toles singled to start the inning, Chase Utley scored him from second on a single of his own to push the Dodgers’ lead to 2-0. A couple of batters later, Justin Turner followed in Seager’s footsteps and crushed a two-run home run to give L.A. a cushy 4-0 advantage.
CSN Mid Atlantic’s Chase Hughes put Scherzer’s struggles in context:
But just when it looked like the wheels were starting to fall off, the Nationals responded.
With men on second and third, Anthony Rendon delivered a two-run single to left field to slash the Dodgers’ lead in half.
By the time the third inning came to a close, Kershaw had thrown 66 pitches and allowed five hits in what proved to be another less than stellar postseason display.
ESPN Los Angeles’ Steve Mason believed Kershaw didn’t look like himself on the mound in hostile territory:
Kershaw gutted it out through the end of the fourth inning after he allowed Washington to cut L.A.’s lead to one, but his command remained shaky.
Los Angeles’ ace ultimately logged 101 pitches through five innings—which represented the most he tossed since returning from the disabled list on Sept. 9, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group.
Sporting News’ Jesse Spector broke down Kershaw’s evening once the three-time Cy Young Award winner was replaced by reliever Joe Blanton:
Conversely, Scherzer struck out five and gave up five hits over six innings. However, two costly mistakes served as blemishes on an otherwise impressive outing, per Zuckerman:
Once the starters sat, the Dodgers bullpen took over.
Blanton, Grant Dayton and Pedro Baez combined to pitch 2.1 no-hit innings, and they served as a stellar bridge to closer Kenley Jansen—who was brought aboard for his first successful five-out save since April 13 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Jansen’s clutch effort was amplified by the fact he retired Trea Turner, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in the ninth to give his side a 1-0 series lead.
The Nationals will now turn to Tanner Roark (16-10, 2.83 ERA) to try to stem the tide in Game 2, while the Dodgers will trust Rich Hill (12-5, 2.12 ERA) on the mound as they seek to take a 2-0 lead back to Hollywood and advance to the NLCS for the first time since 2013.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Dodgers are in an advantageous spot entering Game 2:
Hoornstra later relayed word from manager Dave Roberts regarding Jansen’s potential usage later in the series:
The Los Angeles Times‘ Bill Shaikin noted Jansen was in favor of that plan:
As for the Nationals, Daniel Murphy owned up to his decision to try and swipe second when he was caught stealing.
“There are two choices there, be safe or don’t run,” he said, according to MLB.com’s Alex Putterman. “It was a bad play.”
As for Danny Espinosa (0-for-3 with three strikeouts), manager Dusty Baker just noted it wasn’t the shortstop’s night.
“Espinosa can turn around and hit the next pitch out of the park,” he said, according to the Washington Post‘s Chelsea Janes. “That’s what’s kind of frustrating…his swing was long tonight.”
Source: Extra Juice