The Dodgers cruised to a Game 1 victory last night to take the lead in the 2019 NLDS with the Nationals, but ran into a much stiffer test today, starting arguably their worst starter in Clayton Kershaw against arguably the best pitcher in baseball in Stephen Strasburg.
Things went about as poorly as could be expected, with Kershaw sinking the Dodgers into an early hole that the bats were unable to dig themselves out of against a dominant Strasburg in a 4-2 loss.
The difference between Kershaw playoff starts before and Kershaw playoff starts now is that the present version of himself carries a 3.81 FIP and 3.33 DRA into these starts, so you’re more hoping for good than dominance. Still, it would be nice if he stepped up instead for once, but that night was not tonight.
Instead a double on the first pitch of the game was just a grounder that got under Justin Turner‘s deteriorating defensive prowess, and with one out Kershaw then issued a walk and then hit a batter to load the bases. Howie Kendrick then came through against him with a single between JT and Seager for an early 1-0 lead. Thankfully he got out of the mess after that to avoid absolute disaster.
Well things didn’t get any better in the 2nd for him either. He hit another batter to start the inning, which led to a lot of tweets that clued us into him being a mess.
After a sacrifice bunt advanced the runner, he later gave up a two-out single to Adam Eaton that plated another run and then gave up a ringing run-scoring double to Anthony Rendon to make it 3-0 before mercifully getting out of it.
To Kershaw’s credit, he did get 13 of the next 15 batters and kept the Dodgers in it. He ended up going six innings on 99 pitches, giving up three runs on six hits, a walk, and two hit batters, striking out four. I guess we’re at the stage now where Ted Lilly starts in the playoffs are a win.
Of course, it didn’t help that the bats weren’t doing anything against Strasburg. Literally. He had a perfect game through four innings, then got two outs in the 5th before giving up a single to Will Smith.
In the 6th the bats finally put something together. Matt Beaty pinch hit for Kershaw and came through with a lined single to right and Joc Pederson had the Dodgers in businesses with a lined double to left-center. It sure seemed like it was possible for Beaty to score despite his hesitation and that maybe Joc would’ve made it to third. Regardless, Turner followed and lied out to deep right, which prevented a goose egg and cut the lead to 3-1. However, Pollock could not get the job done, though after striking out twice in his first two at-bats, he at least made contact this time.
Pedro Baez took over for Kershaw in the 7th and allowed a single to Trea Turner that got under Corey Seager‘s glove and Eaton immediately made it a troublesome scenario after a bunt single. Baez got a strikeout, but that was the end of his night with Adam Kolarek coming in for Juan Soto for the second night in a row. Yesterday, Kolarek dominated him on three pitches, but today he worked a nine pitch battle before Kolarek got a routine grounder on a 2-2 count. Unfortunately, he touched the comebacker and took away a potential double-play ball and Seager barely got Soto on the deflection. But he did his job and Dustin May relieved him, getting out of a big jam with a ground out to escape the 7th.
May continued on in the 8th, but ran into trouble quickly behind a lead-off double from Ryan Zimmerman and he then walked the next batter after not getting a strike three called on a borderline pitch due to missing his spot. After a sacrifice bunt advanced both runners, Asdrubal Cabrera then came through with a single to plate a run, but got caught in a rundown for the second out without scoring the runner at third. May finally got a pop-out to end the inning, though it seems fair to wonder why he was left out there.
In a surprise move, Davey Martinez went to Max Scherzer as a reliever out of the pen next and all he did was strikeout the side on 14 pitches.
Despite making an error in the 9th, Julio Urias otherwise got three outs without drama in his scoreless inning, giving the Dodgers one last chance at it.
JT inspired hope against Nationals closer Daniel Hudson with a lead-off double. Unfortunately Pollock was up next and swung at ball four in a 3-2 count and then sub-.600 OPS in the playoffs Bellinger popped out to third on the first pitch. Embarrassing.
Though the Nationals know who the real threat is as they walked Muncy intentionally to bring Smith to the plate as the winning run. Well, he also walked to the load the bases, and they went right after Seager before getting him to strikeout. He has a sub-.650 OPS in the playoffs as well, by the way.
This game was basically a must-win matchup for the Nationals to stay in the series and they accomplished that by treating it as such and tied the series at 1-1.
After a day off for travel, the Dodgers and Nationals play Game 3 at Nationals Park on TBS at 1:45 PM HST/4:45 PM PST/7:45 PM EST. Hyun-Jin Ryu will start for the Dodgers and I think Scherzer will go for the Nationals regardless of his appearance today. If not, it’ll be Anibal Sanchez.