The final was 3-0. The Nationals (1-5) have dropped five straight and now head to St. Louis for a three-game series with the Cardinals. Scherzer allowed one run, one walk and three hits while striking out five on 90 pitches across six innings. Kershaw’s six innings included no runs, no walks, five hits (all singles) and six strikeouts on 86 pitches.
The Dodgers (8-2) pushed ahead when Victor Robles couldn’t make a catch near the wall in the second. They expanded their lead when Zach McKinstry lined a two-run homer off Tanner Rainey in the seventh. The Nationals then teased a comeback in the eighth, putting two on with no outs, but couldn’t nudge the score.
“That’s what you expect when you get into a battle with the Dodgers and with him on the mound,” Scherzer said of Kershaw. “You got to be at your A game. Unfortunately just one pitch, the ball was able to get down for a double and the run scored. A lot of times that doesn’t necessarily beat you. But today it did.”
The Nationals have been shut out in three of their past four games. Of course, hits were hard to come by for both teams Sunday. Scherzer and Kershaw entered with a combined 5,329 strikeouts — 2,793 for Scherzer, 2,536 for Kershaw — and, as of October, two World Series rings. They’re both bound for the Hall of Fame.
Scherzer had logged an odd first outing against the Atlanta Braves. On the Nationals’ delayed Opening Day, he allowed four homers to the first 10 batters before retiring 10 in a row. The Dodgers, then, tried to ambush him with early swings in the early innings Sunday. He used that to work a seven-pitch first against a lineup that was without stars Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger. In the second, Max Muncy ripped a third-pitch change-up to right, and with two outs, McKinstry skied a late-count curveball to left-center.
Robles broke in, backtracked and, with his glove shielding his eyes, let the third out hit the base of the fence. Manager Dave Martinez later explained that Robles lost the ball in the sun. Muncy scored on the miscue, which was ruled a double. But Scherzer struck out five of the next seven batters and set down 10 straight from the second to the fifth. His change-up faded from lefties. He often paired it with a four-seam fastball on the hands. His pitches seemed to dart in the millisecond between crossing the plate and reaching the catcher’s mitt.
The problem was that Kershaw’s did, too.
“You try to get something in the middle of the zone and don’t miss it,” shortstop Trea Turner said of how to approach Kershaw. “Because if you miss those cookies that he gives you every once in a while, then it’s going to be a tough at-bat.”
Turner tagged Kershaw with two first-pitch singles in his first two at-bats. Starlin Castro entered with two hits in 32 at-bats against Kershaw, then doubled that total by the fourth. Otherwise, though, Kershaw silenced the Nationals with 41 sliders, 30 fastballs and 15 curves. They kept wanting for extra-base hits. To that point of the game, after the 45th inning of their season, they had 38 singles, six doubles, zero triples and four homers. Turner and Juan Soto had accounted for all of the home runs. The lineup is lopsided and flat.
Washington does hope to get Josh Bell, Kyle Schwarber and Josh Harrison back this week. They could be activated to face the Cardinals on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Bell and Schwarber were added in the offseason to provide pop behind Turner and Soto. Harrison is an offensive upgrade over Jordy Mercer or Hernán Pérez. But because they’re still on the covid-19 injured list, they couldn’t help solve Kershaw. That was up to Robles, Turner, Soto, Ryan Zimmerman, Mercer, Castro, Yadiel Hernández and Jonathan Lucroy, in that order.
“What often happens is that when your team’s not scoring runs, you put a little added pressure on yourself to be the guy to drive those guys in,” Martinez said. “And I’m seeing a little bit of that right now. Guys are really pressing.”
Soto and Zimmerman finished 0 for 8, including 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position, against Kershaw and former Nationals reliever Blake Treinen. In the sixth, Turner led off with an infield single but was stranded after reaching second on a wild pitch. After that, the Dodgers brought Corey Knebel, Treinen and Kenley Jansen in from the bullpen. Treinen yielded back-to-back singles to pinch hitter Andrew Stevenson and Robles to begin the eighth. But he struck out Turner, got Soto to fly out and quashed the threat when Zimmerman, who has been hot, tapped a grounder in front of the mound.
The day started with the Nationals on the wrong end of a predictable pitchers’ duel. It closed with them on the wrong side of a sweep.
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