LOS ANGELES — Stephen Strasburg was very solid, Hyun-Jin Ryu was nearly untouchable, and that was a difference the Washington Nationals could not overcome in a 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday afternoon.
The Nationals were almost no-hit for the first time since they moved to Washington in 2005. They weren’t, thanks to an eighth-inning double from Gerardo Parra, but still ended a 10-game road swing with just three wins and a thin lineup that hasn’t clicked. Ryu blanked them for eight innings just two days after they were shut out by Kenta Maeda and reliever Julio Urias. They mustered a single hit in the game and were buried, for good, by Corey Seager’s grand slam off reliever Kyle Barraclough in the eighth.
Strasburg gave them a chance in the finale, allowing two runs and four hits in six innings. But the Nationals split with the Dodgers and have not won a series since April 18. They hit the quarter mark of the season at 16-24 and, having scored in one of the past 27 innings, head home to face the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs.
“We couldn’t care less,” said second baseman Brian Dozier of avoiding a no-hitter. “A loss is a loss. It doesn’t matter if you got zero hits or 20. At the end of the day, you chalk it up as a loss and move on.”
The Nationals were the ones buzzing late Saturday, out of the visitors clubhouse and into the night, on the shot of adrenaline that was Parra’s eighth-inning grand slam in a 5-2 win. But the final out of one contest only starts a countdown to the next. Washington’s year has been a sprint full of complications, and crippling losses, and comebacks appearing out of thin air. There’s been little time to breathe, if any, from Opening Day on March 28 to when Parra’s blast seemed to revive a flatlining team.
This quick turnaround was no different.
“You’re only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher,” said Max Scherzer after Saturday’s win, already looking some 16 hours ahead to the final game of the series. That logic had held true for the Nationals in Los Angeles. They won the first game against the Dodgers behind seven scoreless innings from Patrick Corbin. They lost the second because their offense couldn’t compensate for Aníbal Sánchez’s mistakes. They took the third by leaning on Scherzer, and each of his 115 pitches, before Parra pushed them ahead for good.
And Strasburg turned in a strong effort, mostly limiting the Dodgers to soft contact, pushing to 97 pitches to keep the Nationals in line to strike. Ryu was just that much better, running his scoreless innings streak to 24, and so that strike never came.
The 32-year-old lefty diced through the Nationals’ lineup from the start, striking out Dozier and Juan Soto to punctuate a 10-pitch first. Ryu did not give up a base runner until the top of the fourth, when he walked Dozier with one out, but otherwise cruised with a six-pitch mix and a healthy diet of change-ups.
Then the Nationals nearly had their first hit in the sixth, in their 18th at-bat, after Strasburg slapped a 3-2 fastball into right field. But Cody Bellinger charged toward the line, collected the ball in stride and fired it to first to nail Strasburg by half a step. The Nationals challenged the call, hoping to flip their luck, but a 65-second review confirmed that Strasburg was out and Ryu’s no-hitter could roll on.
“It’s happened to me before, I just beat it out before,” Strasburg said. “Sometimes, because I hit it too hard, I just know that they are going to press, especially with me in the box they are going to try to make the play. I just didn’t get there in time.”
The no-hitter was soon broken up by Parra’s double in the eighth, triggering a loud ovation for Ryu, and he exited after throwing 116 pitches and defusing the Nationals’ only threat. Wilmer Difo tried to bunt for a hit and was thrown out at first as Parra moved to third. Then Michael A. Taylor came up, dragging two strikeouts to the plate, and Howie Kendrick stood in the on-deck circle while Victor Robles remained on the bench.
Both appeared to be better options to tilt the game in Washington’s favor, but Manager Dave Martinez felt confidence with Taylor seeing Ryu a third time. Taylor, now hitting .163 on the year, flied out to left to end an 10-pitch at-bat.
“We’re just like the fans, we see that it’s a no-hitter and stuff,” Dozier said of balancing the thought of going hitless with focus on the game. “As a player, it’s happened many times when people take no-hitters in the sixth, seventh inning or whatever, and it’s tough to make sure you don’t get away from the game of baseball.”
Scherzer, as it turned out, was right about how Sunday would go. The teams went as their starting pitchers did until Seager’s grand slam turned it into a lopsided contest. Strasburg once gave the Nationals a chance to win. But Ryu outdid him, flirted with history and, more than anything, made the Dodgers just too tough to beat.