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Dodgers ride big seventh inning to defeat Nationals 4-3, advance to NLCS

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The Dodgers scored four times in the seventh inning to erase a 1-0 deficit and claim a 4-3 victory over the Nationals in the fifth and final game of the NLDS on Thursday night.

The Nationals grabbed an early 1-0 lead against Dodgers starter Rich Hill in the second inning. Daniel Murphy led off with a single, then stole second base with one out. Ryan Zimmerman walked, and Danny Espinosa followed up with a single to plate Murphy. But that would be it for the Nationals’ offense until after the Dodgers had their big inning.

Nationals starter Max Scherzer was fantastic in his second start of the NLDS. He brought a perfect game into the fifth inning, but that was ended when Josh Reddick led off the inning with a single to right field. Scherzer started the seventh inning, but surrendered a leadoff home run to Joc Pederson, going to the opposite field. Scherzer’s left aterwards. Six-plus innings, five hits, one earned run, two walks, seven strikeouts on 99 pitches.

Lefty Mark Rzepczynski replaced Scherzer, but walked Yasmani Grandal. Manager Dusty Baker, in what would become a theme, came out to remove his reliever. Right-hander Blake Treinen came in to face Howie Kendrick, who singled to left field, putting runners on first and second base with no outs. Treinen was able to strike out Charlie Culberson on a failed bunt attempt. Lefty Sammy Solis replaced Treinen, facing pinch-hitter Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz snuck a single past the outstretched glove of third baseman Anthony Rendon, scoring pinch-runner Austin Barnes to break the 1-1 tie. Corey Seager flied out, prompting Baker to come out to the mound again. Shawn Kelley replaced Solis and immediately gave up a two-run triple to Justin Turner, making it a 4-1 game. Kelly left with an injury and lefty Oliver Perez came in to face Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez, at long last, ended the inning with a ground out to second baseman Murphy.

The Dodgers were able to patch things together despite getting only 2 2/3 innings from Hill. Hill gave up the lone run on three hits and a pair of walks with six strikeouts on 55 pitches. Joe Blanton got four outs. Julio Urias tossed a scoreless fifth and sixth inning.

Grant Dayton took the hill to start the seventh for the Dodgers but immediately got in hot water. He walked Danny Espinosa on four pitches, then served up a two-run home run to pinch-hitter Chris Heisey, making it a 4-3 game. Dayton then served up a single to Clint Robinson before departing. Closer Kenley Jansen entered and things continued to get tense. After getting Trea Turner to fly out, Bryce Harper singled to left field, setting up a first-and-third situation. Jayson Werth battled Jansen in a seven-pitch at-bat, but ultimately struck out. As Harper was running when Werth struck out, first base was open so the Dodgers intentionally walked Daniel Murphy, bringing up Anthony Rendon. Rendon, much to the chagrin of Nationals fans, struck out to end the threat.

Jansen came back out for the eighth. After issuing a leadoff walk to Stephen Drew, the right-hander was able to see his way out of the rest of the inning unscathed. He got Danny Espinosa to pop up on a bunt attempt, Pedro Severino to fly out to center, and Michael Taylor to strike out. While the Dodgers went down in order in the top of the ninth, Clayton Kershaw — the guy who pitched Game 4 on Tuesday — walked out to the bullpen and began to warm up.

No, Kershaw didn’t start the inning. Jansen remained in the game, on for his third inning of work at 37 pitches. He struck out Trea Turner to bring up Bryce Harper. Jansen walked Harper on four pitches. Nope, no Kershaw. The FS1 camera caught manager Dave Roberts flashing his index finger at Jansen and saying “one more.” Jansen ran the count full on Werth before walking him to put runners on first and second with one out. Kershaw time.

Murphy popped up a 1-0 Kershaw fastball, bringing the Nationals down to their final out. Wilmer Difo pinch-hit for Mark Melancon, but Kershaw got him to fan on a curve in the dirt. Ruiz gathered the ball and tossed the ball to Gonzalez at first base to wrap it up. Kershaw got a win and a save — a save! — in the NLDS.

After Thursday night’s win, the Dodgers move on in the postseason. They’ll open up the NLCS on Saturday in Chicago against the Cubs in an 8:00 PM EDT game.

Max Scherzer, with broken nose, strikes out 10 Phillies over seven shutout innings

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Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.

Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.

Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.

Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.