Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Dodgers SP Rich Hill
The Matchup: (3) Los Angeles Dodgers vs. (2) Washington Nationals
Season Series: LAD 5-1
Predicted Outcome: Dodgers 3, Nationals 1
After struggling to field a viable starting rotation for much of the year, the Los Angeles Dodgers suddenly boast a pair of bona fide aces in Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, who, along with Kenta Maeda, give the team a terrific trio in a best-of-five series.
On the other side, the Washington Nationals are still trying to decide who fills out their playoff rotation behind Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark.
Joe Ross is finally back in action but still trying to shake off the rust, and Stephen Strasburg still has no clear timetable to return from a flexor mass strain in his right elbow.
“I don’t know,” manager Dusty Baker told reporters when asked of Strasburg’s postseason availability. “I can’t say. We’re still two weeks off. We just have to wait and see. I hate to say ‘I don’t know’ all the time, but I really don’t know. These are questions I really can’t answer…we’ve done all that we can to take the MRIs and put hands on him—a quality fitness crew is here and our medical staff.”
That makes Game 1 incredibly important, as the Nationals will need to get off to a good start behind Scherzer, but Kershaw won’t make things easy.
In a pitcher’s duel that lives up to the billing, both pitchers put up zeroes through seven innings, before Kershaw turns things over to the bullpen.
Joe Blanton puts two runners on in the eighth, and Kenley Jansen comes in early to try to pick up the save, but he allows an RBI single to Wilson Ramos that proves to be the difference.
Scherzer tacks on a scoreless eighth before reluctantly turning it over to closer Mark Melancon, who works a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
That’s as good as things would get for the Nationals, though.
Hill throws another gem in Game 2, and they walk away with an easy 6-1 victory after Roark lasts just five innings and the Nationals’ middle relievers struggle.
Maeda and Gio Gonzalez both get knocked around in Game 3, but the Dodgers come out on top behind home runs from Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig for a 7-5 win.
Taking control of the series means the Dodgers don’t have to turn to Kershaw on short rest, and it’s rookie Julio Urias who takes the ball in his postseason debut against Scherzer in Game 4.
Pitching on just three days’ rest, Scherzer is not nearly as sharp, and the Dodgers scratch across two runs in the third and two more in the fifth before the Nats go to the bullpen.
Urias gives the Dodgers five strong innings and the bullpen does the rest, as Blanton redeems himself with a scoreless eighth, and Jansen notches the save in the ninth for a 4-2 victory and a series win.