The Los Angeles Dodgers were forced to tap into their depth right away and it paid off immediately.
Their offense needed a few innings to get going, but an incredible performance from Walker Buehler and the bullpen helped Los Angeles secure a 6-0 victory against the Washington Nationals in Game 1 of the NLDS.
Juan Soto, Washington’s hero in the wild-card game, singled to lead off the second inning to record the Nationals only hit against Buehler. Buehler dominated for six innings while Adam Kolarek and Kenta Maeda combined for two hitless innings — Maeda did the heavy lifting recording five of the six outs.
Washington didn’t get another hit until Trea Turner doubled off Joe Kelly in the ninth inning.
A potential postseason matchup against the heavily left-handed hitting Dodgers was talked about when the Nationals signed Patrick Corbin in December. For the most part, Corbin did indeed shut down the Dodgers, who had just three singles against the southpaw. But Corbin couldn’t get out of his own way as he was betrayed by his five free passes, including four in the first inning, before eventually taking the loss.
Max Muncy, batting lower in the order against the left-handed Corbin, was in the right place at the right time all night for the Dodgers. He drew a bases-loaded walk in the opening inning and hit a 96.1 mph grounder through Howie Kendrick’s legs to plate the second Los Angeles run with two outs in the fifth inning.
Batting with the bases loaded against Fernando Rodney in the seventh, Muncy clubbed his second base hit into right field to plate two more runs.
Joc Pederson didn’t start against the left-hander but entered as a pinch hitter in the seventh. He drew a walk to get the rally started, and Justin Turner amplified the threat with a base hit. Both came around to score on Muncy’s single. Pederson later banged a no-doubt solo homer off the right-field foul pole in the eighth inning.
The Dodgers probably won’t have to play with a platoon again in this series, but they’ve already proven that it won’t stop their winning ways.
WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE
Walker Buehler: Muncy deserves a ton of credit, but Buehler was simply lights out. The 25-year-old played with fire and walked the bases loaded in the fourth inning, but ultimately got Asdrubal Cabrera to bounce out to end the threat. Otherwise, he was absolutely dominant, allowing one other base runner over six one-hit innings, striking out eight. It was his second postseason start in which he completed at least six innings while allowing two hits or fewer.
Gavin Lux: The Dodgers’ bullpen chipped in three scoreless innings, but the 21-year-old Lux stole the spotlight by homering in his first postseason at-bat in the eighth inning. Lux earned his spot on the playoff roster after being recalled Sept. 1, and will likely be in the starting lineup against the righties in Games 2 and 3.
Patrick Corbin: Issuing four walks in the opening inning isn’t ideal, but the left-hander kept the damage to a minimum. Corbin prevented the Dodgers from recording an extra-base hit and eventually yielded an unearned run on Kendrick’s error in the fifth inning. But he struck out nine and ate up six innings before handing the ball over in a tight game.
Muncy’s seventh-inning single was a back-breaker for Washington and Rodney, who struck out MVP candidate Cody Bellinger with runners at the corners just two batters prior. It was the first bit of offense that didn’t rely on an opposing team blunder, except of course the 94 mph fastball that Rodney left over the middle of the plate.
Adam Eaton deserves some credit for a diving catch on Will Smith’s would-be gapper in the eighth inning. That was not an easy play.
WHAT THEY'LL BE TALKING ABOUT
Kendrick’s fifth-inning Bill Buckner impression should have fans in Washington pondering the status of Ryan Zimmerman’s injured foot. First base defense quickly became an issue for Dave Martinez going into Game 2. Kendrick committed just one error in 336 innings at first base throughout the regular season, but faltered defensively twice Thursday night.
Plantar fasciitis has limited Zimmerman to 53 plate appearances since July 21 and Matt Adams has never been sure-handed in the field. Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera were consistent hitters in the regular season to both deserve a spot in the lineup. Facing a lefty in Game 2 gives Martinez options considering Kendrick, Cabrera and Zimmerman are all agreeable options. But will Kendrick’s defense Thursday night cause a shakeup that takes at-bats away from a hot hand?
The Nationals will look to escape Los Angeles with a win in Game 2 on Friday at 9:37 p.m. ET. Washington turns to their Wild Card game fireman Stephen Strasburg (18-6, 3.32 ERA) to even the series against Clayton Kershaw (16-5, 3.03 ERA).
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