Just one day removed from a painful Game 1 shutout in Los Angeles, the Nationals picked themselves back up with a decisive 4-2 victory over the Dodgers on Friday. Thanks to a tremendous effort from Stephen Strasburg and several key plays by Anthony Rendon and Asdrubal Cabrera, they held the NL West contenders at bay long enough to even the National League Division Series, 1-1.
With All-Star hurler and former three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw pitted against former All-Star Stephen Strasburg, Game 2 of the NLDS promised a bonafide pitcher’s duel — and it didn’t disappoint. Kershaw went six strong innings, scattering three runs, a walk, and four strikeouts in his first postseason outing since he pitched back-to-back losses in the 2018 World Series.
The only thing missing was some pivotal run support, something even Kershaw couldn’t muster as Juan Soto robbed him of a line drive base hit with a terrific diving catch. Try as they might, the Dodgers just couldn’t get ahead of Strasburg, who one-upped Kershaw’s efforts with six innings of one-run, 10-strikeout ball. According to MLB Stats, his lights-out performance cemented him as the only pitcher in MLB history with 10+ strikeouts in three of his first four playoff appearances. He also beat out Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax’s record for lowest postseason ERA (0.64 to 0.95, minimum four starts).
The Nationals’ offense, meanwhile, kept them a step ahead of their rivals after they broke out for an early lead. Howie Kendrick plated a run with an RBI single in the top of the first inning — his first postseason RBI since the 2015 NLDS (when, funnily enough, he collected three RBI for the Dodgers) — while Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the second. The Dodgers eventually spoiled Strasburg’s shutout in the sixth, as Justin Turner eked out a sac fly to get the team on the board and Max Muncy followed up with a solo shot off of Sean Doolittle in the seventh, but it wasn’t quite enough to bridge the gap.
After Doolittle wrapped the seventh inning, the Nationals tabbed Game 3 starter Max Scherzer for a rare relief appearance in the eighth. He did so with aplomb, whiffing Gavin Lux, Chris Taylor, and Joc Pederson in order and preserving the club’s tenuous two-run lead. In the ninth, he was swiftly replaced by Daniel Hudson, who allowed a leadoff double, intentionally walked the tying run, and loaded the bases before finalizing the win with a game-ending strikeout to Corey Seager.
Los Angeles will look to regain its foothold in the series on Sunday, when lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu will begin Game 3 at 7:45 PM EDT. Given Scherzer’s last-minute appointment on Friday, it’s unclear whether he’ll be sent back out for another full outing on Sunday. If so, it’ll mark his first formal start since the NL Wild Card Game, during which he claimed his first win after tossing five innings of three-run, six-strikeout ball against the Brewers.