The Washington Nationals aren’t going down without a fight.
After being dominated by Walker Buehler and the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS, the Nationals went to every extreme to ensure victory in Game 2. The strategy paid off as aces Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer dominated on short rest to silence the Dodgers in a 4-2 series-tying victory.
Strasburg made the start three days after throwing three scoreless innings in Washington’s wild-card victory against the Milwaukee Brewers. He somehow looked even sharper on Friday, retiring the first 14 batters he faced before allowing a Will Smith single. The 31-year-old right-hander went six strong innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out 10.
Scherzer, who started the wild-card game on Tuesday, made a surprising appearance in relief. He struck out all three batters he faced in a scoreless eighth inning. That helped manager Davey Martinez bridge the gap from Strasburg to ninth-inning man, Daniel Hudson.
And, oh, what a ninth inning. The Dodgers loaded the bases thanks in part to Martinez’s decision to intentionally walk Max Muncy, which brought the winning run to the plate. Hudson issued a conventional walk to Will Smith, but rebounded to strike out Corey Seager to end the game.
On the Dodgers side, Clayton Kershaw couldn’t match the lofty standard set by Buehler on Thursday. The three-time Cy Young award winner was on the ropes early, allowing three runs over the first two frames. Kershaw righted the ship in the middle innings, at one point retiring eight straight batters. But the early deficit proved too much for the Dodgers to overcome.
WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE
• Stephen Strasburg: After losing Game 1, the Nationals needed a Strasburg gem to get back in the series. He nearly delivered something better after taking a perfect game into the fifth inning. Though it’s a rather small sample size, Strasburg has been truly exceptional in the postseason. In 28 career innings, he has a 0.64 ERA.
Stephen Strasburg has the lowest ERA (0.64) in #postseason history, besting Sandy Koufax (0.95 ERA). (min. 4 starts) 😱— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) October 5, 2019
• Anthony Rendon: The Nationals MVP reached base three times against Kershaw in Game 2. That included a two-out run-scoring single that extended Washington’s lead to 3-0 in the second inning. Rendon had been hitless in six postseason at-bats prior to this breakout.
• Max Muncy: The Dodgers bats were silent through six innings, but Muncy finally injected some energy and optimism into Dodger Stadium by launching a seventh-inning solo home run against Sean Doolittle. The slugging first baseman also knocked in two runs in the Dodgers’ Game 1 win.
The Dodgers didn’t get many good swings against Strasburg in the early going. The best was produced by Clayton Kershaw, but left fielder Juan Soto made an improbable catch to rob him of a hit.
10% catch probability for Juan Soto! pic.twitter.com/KaDr1t0JNi— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) October 5, 2019
WHAT THEY'LL BE TALKING ABOUT
The Nationals were bound and determined to leave Los Angeles with a victory in Game 2. Some might call their decision to use both Strasburg and Scherzer on short rest a desperate ploy. If it works though, and it did work brilliantly, then it seems worthwhile given how dire an 0-2 deficit is in a best-of-five series. Whether it's a strategy that could be sustained throughout the postseason is another discussion entirely.
The series shifts to the east coast for a pivotal Game 3 in Washington D.C. on Sunday. The Nationals were planning on starting Max Scherzer, but Davey Martinez acknowledges that could change after using his No. 1 in relief in Game 2. The Dodgers will go with Cy Young candidate Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-5, 2.32). First pitch is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. ET.
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