Nationals @ Dodgers NLDS Game 2: Strasburg vs. Kershaw

Photo: Stacie Wheeler

The Dodgers (1-0) shut out the Nationals (0-1) in Game 1 of the NLDS, and now they look to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the five-game series behind Clayton Kershaw in his 25th postseason start.

Nationals
Dodgers
6:37 p.m.
Los Angeles
SS
Turner
RF
Pederson
RF
Eaton
3B
Turner
3B
Rendon
LF
Pollock
LF
Soto
CF
Bellinger
2B
Kendrick
1B
Muncy
1B
Zimmerman
C
Smith
C
Suzuki SS Seager
CF
Robles
2B
Lux
P
Strasburg (R)
P
Kershaw (L)

Starting Game 2 sets up Kershaw to be fresh for a relief appearance in Game 5 should the series go that far. Walker Buehler may have usurped the veteran lefty as the “ace” of the staff, but Kershaw still has a critical role on the Dodgers’ postseason pitching staff.

We’re all sick of hearing about the Kershaw postseason narrative, so let’s get the numbers out of the way. He’s 9-10 with a 4.32 ERA and 1.092 WHIP in 30 postseason games (24 starts). Kershaw’s October shortcomings have been tirelessly focused on, but he’s also been a key contributor in some important postseason moments as well. Let’s not forget he pitched a scoreless 9th inning in NLCS Game 7 last year, a four-inning scoreless appearance in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, and three strong outings against the Nationals in the 2016 NLDS.

You can’t argue with the fact that without Kershaw, the Dodgers probably wouldn’t have reached the postseason seven straight seasons. Although Kershaw wasn’t as dominant this season as years past (16-5, 3.03 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 9.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9), he’s still good despite his decrease in velocity and the major uptick in home runs allowed.

My biggest concern is the veteran lefty’s ability to keep the ball in the park. He allowed a career-high 28 home runs (1.4 HR/9) in 178.1 IP. The Nationals collected 231 home runs in the regular season, 6th in the NL and 48 less than the Dodgers.

Kershaw faced the Nats once this season back on July 27 at Nationals Park. He allowed two runs on three hits with nine strikeouts and three walks in six innings for the win. He’s pitched well historically in his career vs. the Nationals and is 12-3 with a 2.23 ERA and 0.917 WHIP in 17 games (16 starts) against them.

Pesky Gerardo Parra, Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, and Michael Taylor are all hitting over .300 vs. Kershaw. He might have to face old foe Matt Adams as well. *shudder*

Stephen Strasburg is three days removed from a 34-pitch appearance in the NL Wild Card Game. He’s pitched well in the postseason, allowing just one earned run in 22 innings (0.41 ERA) with 28 strikeouts (11.5 K/9) and four walks (1.6 BB/9) in four postseason games (three starts). He hasn’t allowed a home run in the playoffs.

This season, against the Dodgers, Strasburg’s 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 0.615 WHIP in two starts. Overall, in his career, the right-hander’s 3-5 with a 2.54 ERA in 11 starts. He’s winless at Dodger Stadium (0-3) with a 2.08 ERA in four starts.

Strasburg’s held left-handed batters to a .192 average this season. Justin Turner is 4-for-14 (.286) with two home runs against him. A.J. Pollock is hitting third in the lineup against the right-hander, because he’s 7-for-14 (.500) with four extra-base hits against Strasburg. Enrique Hernandez also has hit a couple of homers against him as well.

On the other side, Max Muncy is 0-for-10, and Corey Seager is 1-for-12 vs. Stras.

This could be Strasburg’s final start with Washington should the Dodgers go on to win the series. He will have three days to tell the Nationals if he chooses to opt out of his contract – relinquishing a guaranteed four years and $100 million – when the season ends to become a free agent. Strasburg went 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 10.81 K/9 in 209 innings this year.

It was sometimes hard to believe that this Dodgers team collected the most wins in franchise history when every game seemed to be on the verge of a loss due to a bullpen meltdown. Similar to 2018, the relief squad was in disarray at times without a consistent Kenley Jansen as the anchor.

Even though the ‘pen never fully melded into a cohesive unit with set roles, the Dodgers’ depth has allowed them to mix and match starters and relievers out of the bullpen with success. For example, Kenta Maeda started 26 games this year, but he’s also become a valuable weapon out of the bullpen as well. He was dominant in Game 1, striking out two in 1.2 scoreless innings.

The Nats’ bullpen is even more problematic. When you have to rely on Fernando Rodney to get important late-inning outs in a playoff game, you know you have issues. Davey Martinez should definitely use Rodney again, in my opinion.

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After becoming the youngest Dodger to hit a home run in the postseason, Gavin Lux gets the start at second base and hits eighth. Kirk Gibson‘s World Series homer in 1988 came nine years before Lux was even born.

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The Boys in Blue have been here seven straight seasons, but there’s still that darn redemption arc that looks to be completed. It’s been a historic season for the storied franchise. 107 wins later, the Dodgers now look for 10 more to capture the World Championship that has eluded them for 31 long years.

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.