Dodgers @ Nationals October 7, 2016: NLDS Game 1

2:30 PM PT, FS1
Grandal SS  Espinosa
Kershaw (L)
Scherzer (R)

The Dodgers and Nationals may be pretty evenly matched going into the National League Division Series on Friday afternoon at Nationals Park, but the unpredictable nature of the playoffs makes it crucial for the Dodgers to win Game 1 with Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Although the Nationals have been hit with ill-timed injuries, they still pose a threat and happen to have the reigning National League MVP on their team.

Of course, Bryce Harper has only one hit, a home run, in 15 at-bats against the ace southpaw. Harper bats second today in Dusty Baker‘s lineup for the NLDS series opener. However, Daniel Murphy is hitting .316 with two homers against Kershaw, and he makes his first start for the Nationals since September 17 after battling a buttocks injury, batting cleanup.

Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA, 1.80 FIP) has been dominant against the Washington Nationals over his career. He’s 10-2 with a 2.02 ERA in 14 games (13 starts) vs. Washington and is 3-1 with a 2.51 ERA in six games (five starts) at Nationals Park. Home-field advantage usually doesn’t mean as much when you have Kershaw on the mound as your opponent.

Kershaw has made five starts since returning from the back injury. The three-time Cy Young Award winner was having another historic season — arguably better than his MVP season — before he went on the disabled list at the end of June with a herniated disc in his back. Kershaw may not be happy with his curveball yet since returning from the DL, but his constant push for perfection on the mound is what makes him such a formidable opponent. While he hasn’t pitched more than seven innings since June 10, he’s been effective and has even thrown in a few experimental arm angles inspired by Rich Hill in an effort to find a little extra edge.

It’s hard to ignore the narratives when it comes to Kershaw and the postseason, and we all know it’s annoying to have people talk about it over and over. Yet there is a point when players just need to perform and step up, and Kershaw knows this as well as anyone.


Good news! The Dodgers don’t draw a left-handed starter in Game 1.

Bad news! It’s Max Scherzer.

The Dodgers thankfully won’t have to face a left-handed Washington starter (Gio Gonzalez) until Game 3, because Tanner Roark will start Game 2 on Saturday for the Nats.

Back to Scherzer (20-7, 2.96 ERA, 3.24 FIP), who has amassed the most strikeouts in the league this year (284) and had the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.07), but he also pitched the most innings (228 1/3). Perhaps a rested up Kershaw, who only pitched 149 innings this year, could use that to his advantage in the series.

Max has been great at home this year (8-3, 2.56 ERA, 11.8 SO/9), and he’s also had solid results against the Dodgers in his career, going 2-4 with a 3.29 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 10 games (8 starts) and 54 2/3 innings against them.

Howie Kendrick, Andre Ethier and Josh Reddick have all fared well against Scherzer. Ethier has hit a home run against him, and Kendrick has five hits in 14 at-bats vs. the righty. However, neither Ethier nor Kendrick are in the starting lineup for Game 1, which is not a surprise at this point.

Dave Roberts‘ lineup is as expected, although the bottom of the order has Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal and Andrew “Tolesy” Toles batting 6-7-8 for the first time.


Finally, some inspirational words from Rich Hill.

Are you ready? The long and arduous journey back to the playoffs is over, but now an entirely new season is upon us. It really is a good idea to win this first one. Now I’m going to go … and try not to barf.

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About Stacie Wheeler

Stacie Wheeler
Stacie Wheeler, born and raised in So Cal, has been writing about the Dodgers since 2010. She wrote daily as the co-editor of Lasorda's Lair for five long years, and she has also written for Dodgers Nation, Dodger Blue 1958 and The Hardball Times. She currently contributes to True Blue LA. Stacie graduated from the University Of Southern California with a bachelor's degree in Cinema-Television. You can also watch her videos on her YouTube channel, DishingUpTheDodgers.