Nationals @ Dodgers April 20, 2018: Kershaw vs. Scherzer

Can Kershaw pitch the Dodgers to .500?

The Dodgers (8-9) return home after a three-game sweep of the Padres. They ride a four-game winning streak into the homestand opener against the Nationals (9-10) Friday night. This is the first time the Dodgers will play a team outside the NL West this season, not including the brief interleague series with the A’s last week. With Rich Hill hitting the 10-day disabled list — once again with a finger issue — Clayton Kershaw (1-2, 1.73 ERA, 3.10 FIP) gets the ball for the series opener. I guess it worked out, because the Dodgers were scheduled to face the one and only Max Scherzer (3-1, 1.33 ERA, 1.73). Might as well have the two aces square off for a must-see 4/20 battle.

The Dodgers go for their fifth straight win to bring them to .500 on the season. They’ve been playing better of late with Yasmani Grandal and Matt Kemp taking charge of the offensive duties while Justin Turner rehabs his wrist and Logan Forsythe his shoulder. The offense and pitching could still find more consistency, but there’s a glimmer of optimism to be found after their offensive breakout. The Boys In Blue scored 37 runs during their four-game win streak. That’ll play.

7:10 PM
Los Angeles
Taylor RF Puig
Scherzer (R)
Kershaw (L)

It’s a historic match-up between the two 3-time Cy Young Award winners. The Dodgers sent out a special PR note on this clash of pitching titans:

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s starting pitching matchup between Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, according to Stats LLC, it will be only the 13th all-time meeting (10th in the regular season) between 3-time Cy Young Award winners.

And here are those 13 matchups:

04/08/1981 Steve Carlton, Phi Tom Seaver, Cin Cin, 3-2
08/18/1981 Steve Carlton, Phi Tom Seaver, Cin Cin, 3-1
05/24/1982 Steve Carlton, Phi Tom Seaver, Cin Phi, 9-1
04/05/1983 Steve Carlton, Phi Tom Seaver, NYM NYM, 2-0
04/23/1984 Jim Palmer, Bal Tom Seaver, CWS CWS, 7-6 (10)
06/03/2000 Roger Clemens, NYY Greg Maddux, Atl Atl, 11-7
04/14/2001 Roger Clemens, NYY Pedro Martinez, Bos NYY, 3-2
10/16/2001 Greg Maddux, Atl Randy Johnson, Ari Ari, 2-0 NLCS Gm1
10/11/2003 Roger Clemens, NYY Pedro Martinez, Bos NYY, 4-3 ALCS Gm3
10/16/2003 Pedro Martinez, Bos Roger Clemens, NYY NYY, 6-5 (11) ALCS Gm7
04/29/2005 Greg Maddux, ChC Roger Clemens, Hou ChC, 3-2
07/19/2006 Roger Clemens, Hou Greg Maddux, ChC Hou, 4-2

The two are pretty darn close when you compare their career stats.

How can you not be optimistic when you have Kershaw on the mound? Inevitably the Dodgers’ success relies a lot on their long-time ace’s success. He’s been good so far this year even with only nine runs of support behind him (3.12 RS/9 — 35th in the NL) through 26 innings of work. The Nationals haven’t given Scherzer much support either (10 runs and 3.33 RS/9).

On the flip side, Kersh has already given up four home runs and walked three. The three walks are honestly more surprising than the homers. Last time out Kershaw was stellar, as he allowed one run on two hits while striking out a dozen and walking none in a dominant seven-inning 100-pitch gem against the D-backs.

Vintage Kershaw.

The 30-year-old southpaw will face a team other than the Giants or D-backs for the first time this season, and he’s historically pitched extremely well against D.C.

Scherzer has started the season off well, and he remains one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball. The two-tone-eyed right-hander leads the league in striking out 38.4% of batters and has a 1.70 FIP. Opposing batters have only hit .147 against him, and he’s only given up two home runs in 27 innings pitched. Overall in his career, he’s 3-4 with a 2.92 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings against the Dodgers. He’s 2-2 with a 3.26 ERA at Dodger Stadium in six starts.

Kemp is hitting .130 against him with a home run and 14 strikeouts in 46 at-bats, so he sits. Grandal bats third, and Max Muncy gets another start at third base. Joc Pederson starts in left field, batting fifth. Joc has two hits, including a home run, in eight at-bats against Scherzer.

Joc’s seventh-inning postseason dong against Scherzer in Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS won’t soon be forgotten.

The Nationals have actually fared better on the road (6-3) than at home (3-7). Some of their key players like infielder Daniel Murphy and outfielder Adam Eaton, and right-hander Joaquin Benoit are on the DL. Third baseman Anthony Rendon is day-to-day with a toe injury. They’re currently 4 1/2 games behind the surprisingly red hot Mets (13-5) in the NL East.

Speaking of injuries, Turner isn’t close to returning yet.

Things are starting to get somewhat fun now. Don’t ruin the fun, guys.

About 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.