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Final: Nationals top Kershaw and even series with Dodgers

The Dodgers lose to the Washington Nationals 4-2 in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on Friday. The series is tied 1-1.

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg strikes out Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger during the fifth inning of the Dodgers' NLDS Game 2 loss Friday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers lose to the Washington Nationals 4-2 in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on Friday. Here’s a recap of the game.

Nationals even series despite late rally by Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager (5) walks back to the dugout after striking out with bases loaded against Washington Nationals relief pitcher Daniel Hudson (44) in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 2 of the NLDS.
Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager (5) walks back to the dugout after striking out with bases loaded against Washington Nationals relief pitcher Daniel Hudson (44) in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 2 of the NLDS.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

The door cracked open for the Dodgers in the seventh inning Friday when Sean Doolittle, not Stephen Strasburg, appeared on the mound at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers, gasping for six innings opposite Strasburg, had reached their destination. They had nine outs to prey on the Washington Nationals’ dreadful bullpen and steal Game 2 of the National League Division Series.

It was wide open when Corey Seager stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning. The rejuvenated Daniel Hudson, a Dodger last season, stood 60 feet, 6 feet away. A clash ensued.

After taking a called strike, Seager fouled off the next three pitches. He took the next two for balls and fouled off the seventh pitch. All seven pitches were fastballs. The seventh was a slider that darted in on Seager’s hands. Seager swung through it for strike three to conclude the Dodgers’ failed comeback attempt in a 4-2 loss.

The series now moves to Washington D.C. for Game 3 where Hyun-Jin Ryu will face Max Scherzer at 4:45 p.m.

Daniel Hudson will try to close Nationals win out in ninth

Max Scherzer come on in the eighth and strikes out the side

Muncy continues to torment lefties with long home run in seventh

Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy watches his home run ball against Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle in the 7th inning.
Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy watches his home run ball against Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle in the 7th inning.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Don’t even bother to look up the exit velocity. When Max Muncy gets all of it, the ball leave the park in a hurry. Anybody could see that when he pounded a 95 mph four-seam fastball by Nationals left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle into the right-center field seats in the seventh inning to cut the Dodgers’ deficit to 3-2.

And don’t think left-handed hitting Muncy can’t hit left-handers. He had 11 home runs in 157 at-bats against them during the regular season and batted .268 with a .893 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. Against right-handers? He batted .242 with an .887 OPS, hitting 24 home runs in 330 at-bats.

The shaky Nationals’ bullpen is now charged with getting six more outs and protecting a one-run lead. If the Dodgers can keep Washington from extending its lead, a patented Dodger Stadium walkoff could be in the works.

Dustin May gave up a run in the eighth, however, and the Nationals lead, 4-2 with the Dodgers batting in the bottom of the inning.

Adam Kolarek snuffs out rally by retiring Juan Soto...again

Wally Skalij  Los Angeles Times ADAM KOLAREK
Wally Skalij  Los Angeles Times ADAM KOLAREK
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

An epic nine-pitch battle between Dodgers left-hander Adam Kolarek and Nationals outfielder Juan Soto ended with the left-handed-hitting slugger grounding out, part of a rally-killing effort by the Dodgers bullpen that prevented a 3-1 deficit from growing in the seventh inning.

Trea Turner opened the inning with a single off reliever Pedro Baez, and Adam Eaton reached on a bunt single. Baez struck out Anthony Rendon looking and was replaced by Kolarek, who struck out Soto on three pitches in seventh inning of Game 1 Thursday night.

This at-bat lasted three times as long. Soto took a called strike and a ball and then fouled off four straight pitches, all of them sinkers down and inside. Soto took another ball, fouled another pitch off and then hit a hard grounder that nicked off of Kolarek’s glove and to shortstop Corey Seager, who threw to first for the out.

The runners advanced to second and third on the out, but right-hander Dustin May replaced Kolarek and got Howie Kendrick to ground out, ending the inning.

Dodgers break up Strasburg’s perfect game in fifth inning

Bulletin: Stephen Strasburg will not pitch a no-hitter. The Nationals ace held the Dodgers hitless until rookie catcher Will Smith singled with two out in the fifth inning. Corey Seager worked the count full, allowing Smith to run on the pitch, but Strasburg struck him out on an 87 mph changeup down in the zone.

It was Strasburg’s ninth strikeout, and he’s thrown only 72 pitches. Given the Nationals’ brutal bullpen, don’t expect Strasburg to leave the game any time soon.

Best photos from Dodgers vs. Nationals in Game 2 of the NLDS

Dodgers aren’t making Strasburg work and pitch count remains low

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) in the second inning against the Dodgers in game two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium. (
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) in the second inning against the Dodgers in game two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium. (
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers game plan against Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg Friday night was to drive his pitch count up early so they could knock the starter out of the game and get to Washington’s brutal bullpen.

It is not going very well so far. Strasburg, who is pitching on three days rest after throwing 34 pitches in three innings of Tuesday night’s wild-card win over Milwaukee, retired the first six batters of the game—three by strikeout—and needed only 23 pitches to do so.

The Nationals scored twice in the second on Adam Eaton’s clutch two-out, RBI single to left-center field and Anthony Rendon’s RBI double off the left-center field wall.

Kershaw struggles in second inning and Nationals add to their lead

Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger crashes into the wall on an RBI double by Nationals Anthony Rendon in the 2nd inning.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

First clue that Clayton Kershaw doesn’t have his best command tonight: He hit a batter with a pitch in each of the first two innings, matching his total for the entire regular season in 178 1/3 innings.

He hit Juan Soto in the first inning when the Nationals took a 1-0 lead, and he opened the second by hitting Victor Robles, triggering a two-run outburst that put the Dodgers behind 3-0.

First inning bunt was probably not a good idea

I’m usually a proponent of the sacrifice bunt, which seems be to dying in today’s juiced-ball, power-hitting game, but not in the situation the Nationals used it Friday night.

Trea Turner smacked Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw’s first pitch of the game by third baseman Justin Turner and into left field for a double, bringing left-handed-hitting Adam Eaton to the plate.

The Dodgers expected a bunt, bringing their corner infielders in, and second baseman Gavin Lux shaded toward first. Eaton popped up his bunt that Turner easily caught for the first out.

A better play would have been to let Eaton swing away and either hit a ground ball to the right side to advance Turner to third. With a sizeable hole in the infield, there’s always a chance a grounder would reach the outfield for a single to either score Turner or put runners on first and third with no outs.

The Nats scored a run in the inning on Howie Kendrick’s bases-loaded, one-out single to left field, but Kershaw got Ryan Zimmerman to pop out to catcher Will Smith and struck out Kurt Suzuki with a full-count slider to end an inning that might have been bigger if not for a Eaton’s poor bunt.

Kershaw gets into immediate trouble, but escapes too much damage

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw wipes his face during the first inning in Game 2.
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw wipes his face during the first inning in Game 2.
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Clayton Kershaw got into immediate trouble Friday night, and that was no surprise. His ERA this season in the first inning was 5.70, by far the worst of any inning. He’d allowed more hits, home runs and walks than in any other inning.

In keeping with the trend, Kershaw gave up a leadoff double to Trea Turner, and with one out walked Anthony Rendon, hit Juan Soto with a fastball to load the bases, then gave up a run-scoring single to Howie Kendrick.

He retired the next two batters, minimizing the damage, but it took him 26 pitches to get through the inning, an indication he probably won’t get deep into the game.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, several relievers are fresh. Before the game, manager Dave Roberts said he’s like Pedro Baez, Dustin May and Julio Urias to pitch in the game. Kenley Jansen and Ross Stripling also have had ample rest.

Watch fans stream into Dodger Stadium before Game 2

Today is the 64-year anniversary of the Dodgers winning their first World Series

Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Johnny Podres is lifted by catcher Roy Campanella after the final out of the 1955 World Series.
(Associated Press)

“This day in Dodgers history” is often something obscure. Not true today. Oct. 4, 1955, the Dodgers won their first World Series championship in the then-72-year history of the franchise.

Never as the Brooklyn Atlantics, Grays, Bridegrooms, Grooms, Superbas, Robins or Dodgers had they won a title. They’d lost eight World Series, including four the previous eight years, all to the New York Yankees.

Today’s Dodgers, who have dropped two consecutive World Series and four consecutive National League Championship Series before that, can relate. And perhaps the ’55 edition can serve as a reminder that losing in October is not a fait accompli.

In 1955, their most recent failure had come two years earlier, when the Brooklyn Dodgers posted a franchise-record 105 victories only to fall to the Yankees in six games. Although the “Boys of Summer” won only 98 regular-season games in 1955, they defeated the Yankees in seven games.

And 64 years today, Johnny Podres pitched a shutout in Game 7, scattering eight hits, in the Dodgers’ 2-0 victory. The Dodgers managed only five hits, but Gil Hodges drove in runs in the fourth and sixth innings.

Calling the game on television and radio along with Red Barber and Connie Desmond was a young Vin Scully. He was hardly a rookie in 1955, though, having joined the broadcast team in 1950.

Dodgers NLDS tickets are remarkably cheap on the secondary market

There’s a price a team apparently pays when it wins a division seven consecutive seasons and enters the postseason with World Series-or-bust expectations. It’s a cost not necessarily transferred to its fans.

The get-in price for Game 2 of the NLDS on Friday between the Dodgers and Nationals at Dodger Stadium was $40, the second-lowest price for any game this postseason. It wasn’t able to beat the get-in price for Game 1 of the series Thursday, which at $37 was the cheapest LDS game this year.

Sure, Thursday’s game started at 5:37 p.m. PDT, but the Dodgers did their best to entice fans by offering the first 40,000 in attendance the first-ever postseason bobblehead. After the game, the Cody Bellinger bobblehead was selling for almost three times the price of the cheapest ticket to the game.

According to TicketIQ, the Dodgers, despite having the best odds in the National League to reach the World Series, have the second-cheapest tickets in the LDS behind the Atlanta Braves. Their secondary market average list price for NLDS tickets this year ($138) is the cheapest they have seen during their current run of seven consecutive postseason trips.

To put that number into context, the secondary market average list price, according to TicketIQ, for the New York Yankees’ LDS games this postseason is $411. It’s $235 for the St. Louis Cardinals and $213 for the Houston Astros.

Dodger Stadium holds 56,000, the largest capacity in the majors. The Dodgers enjoyed a franchise attendance record this season of 3,974,309 (49,066 average), which included 28 sellouts. The size of the stadium, however, often leaves thousands of seats empty, which drives down the price of tickets on the secondary market.

Gavin Lux’s grasp of Dodgers lore as fuzzy as Dennis Eckersley’s mustache

Oakland Athletics pitcher Dennis Eckersley in the 1980s.
(Getty Images)

While the Dodgers are an organization that clearly excels at math and science, they might need to brush up on history.

As one of the dwindling number of media members who actually covered the Dodgers’ last World Series championship in 1988, I felt an obligation to pose the following pregame question to 21-year-old rookie star Gavin Lux. A night earlier, he became the first Dodgers rookie to homer in his first postseason plate appearance, so I wanted to ask him about a different type of postseason history.

“You weren’t even born the last time the Dodgers won a World Series championship. Do you know anything, did they ever tell you about that, do you know anything about the year or the hero or anything like that?”

Lux smiled and shook his head.

“Honestly, not too much, no,” he said. “John Shoemaker (Dodgers minor league coaching guru) would kill me if he heard me say that.”

I pressed on, asking, “Have you ever heard of Kirk Gibson?”

“Yeah, of course,” Lux said, doing an abbreviated fist pump with a laugh. “Who did he hit it off of? Tell me.”

Kirk Gibson celebrates his home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
(Joe Kennedy / Los Angeles Times)

“Dennis Eckersley,’’ I answered.

“Yeah, mustache, yeah, yeah,” he said.

“Orel Hershiser?” I asked.

“Yeah, Hershiser, of course,” he said. “And there’s been a lot of really good Dodgers teams, a lot of good players.”

So, bottom line, it’s been so long since the Dodgers won it all, even the best lessons from a veteran teacher like Shoemaker can’t bring it back to life.

And, hey, Lux did know about the fist pump and the mustache and Hershiser, and, really, isn’t that really all you need to know 1988?

A.J. Pollock’s success against Stephen Strasburg earns him No. 3 spot in order

A.J. Pollock will be batting third for the Dodgers against the Nationals in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.
(Getty Images)

The Dodgers will face one of the best right-handed pitchers in baseball Friday night when Stephen Strasburg starts Game 2 of the National League Division Series for the Washington Nationals.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will counter Strasburg with a lineup that features five left-handed hitters, but there is a bit of a surprise in the No. 3 hole, which will be filled by right-handed-hitting A.J. Pollock.

The left fielder has started only 11 games this season in the third spot, which is usually filled by third baseman Justin Turner, but Pollock’s success against Strasburg has earned him the start there.

Pollock has seven hits in 14 career at-bats (.500) with one homer, two doubles, a triple and three RBIs against Strasburg.

“That was part of it,” Roberts said. “A.J. has been swinging the bat well for the last five weeks, and obviously the familiarity, the history … so to get him up there to get a few looks at him kind of was my thought. And, obviously, when you have Corey [Seager] hitting seventh and [Max] Muncy in the fifth spot, there’s length.”

Strasburg, who will be starting on two days rest after throwing 34 pitches over three scoreless relief innings in Tuesday night’s wild-card win over Milwaukee, went 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA in 33 starts this season, striking out 251 and walking 56 in 209 innings.

He has not allowed an earned run in 18 straight postseason innings, in which opponents are hitting .100 (4 for 40) with 15 strikeouts.

The Dodgers’ four best left-handed hitters have not had much success against Strasburg, who has held Muncy hitless in 10 at-bats, Seager to one hit (a home run) in 12 at-bats (.083), Joc Pederson to one hit (a homer) in 11 at-bats (.091) and Cody Bellinger to two hits in 15 at-bats (.133).

Gavin Lux rewards fan for doing some Dodger Stadium dumpster diving

Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux hits a solo home run against the Nationals during Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That old axiom came true for Gavin Lux, the Dodgers rookie second baseman who belted the first post-season pitch he ever saw for a solo homer to right-center field in the eighth inning of Thursday night’s 6-0 National League Division Series win over Washington.

According to MLB.com, the ball was retrieved by a Dodgers fan named Agustin Nuno and delivered to Lux outside the Dodgers clubhouse after the game. Nuno received several autographed baseballs in exchange for Lux’s souvenir ball.

“The guy who got the ball for me was like, ‘Yeah, you know the ball bounced in a trash can, right?’ ” Lux said before Game 2 Friday night. “And I was like, ‘You went dumpster-diving for it? I guess I appreciate you doing that.’

“It kind of makes it a little more funny and a better story for the ball, I guess. Twenty years from now I can tell my kids that this ball was in a trash can.”

Watch: Joc Pederson’s blast of beauty in the Dodgers’ NLDS Game 1 victory

Dodgers right fielder Joc Pederson watches his home run.
Dodgers right fielder Joc Pederson watches his home run off Washington Nationals relief pitcher Hunter Strickland during the eighth inning of Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday.
(Associated Press)

Joc Pederson’s home run in the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ 6-0 win over the Washington Nationals in Game 1 of the National League Division Series wasn’t necessary. It was the last run in a rout, an exercise in excess, bacon on the doughnut.

But, wow, what a spectacle.

Pederson’s blast left his bat at 114.9 mph. Think of a car flying past yours at 114.9 mph. That’s Pederson’s home run. You puttering along at 65 mph is a rollover ground ball to second base.

At least a dozen major league home runs in 2019 were hit harder, led by three at 118.3 mph hit by Gary Sanchez, Pete Alonso and Aristides Aquino, according to MLB Statcast. But none of the Dodgers’ NL-record 279 home runs this season were hit as hard.

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Stephen Strasburg could make his last Nationals start today

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg delivers against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sept. 26.
(Getty Images)

If the Dodgers win their division series, Friday’s start could be the final one Stephen Strasburg makes for the Washington Nationals. Strasburg has been with the Nationals since 2009, when they selected him from San Diego State with the first overall pick in the draft.

When the season ends, Strasburg has three days to tell the Nationals whether he is opting out of his contract. If he does, he would forfeit a guaranteed four years and $100 million in search of a better deal on the open market.

Scott Boras, his agent, attended Thursday’s NLDS opener and declined to speak specifically about what Strasburg might do. But Boras left no doubt that he does not believe the general downturn in the free-agent market should affect elite starters.

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Clayton Kershaw is no longer the Dodgers’ ace, but his NLDS role is crucial

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw watches from the dugout during Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday.
(Getty Images)

On his way out of the Dodger Stadium clubhouse Thursday night, Clayton Kershaw smiled as he snaked through a cluster of reporters. This time, they weren’t waiting for him. Unlike most postseasons past, he was idle for Game 1.

Rather, Kershaw spent the National League Division Series opener in the dugout. Bundled in a blue sweatshirt, he watched while Walker Buehler –- the staff’s new No. 1 starter –- out-dueled Patrick Corbin and the Dodgers overpowered the Washington Nationals’ bullpen in a 6-0 win.

When Buehler’s night was finished, he plopped down next to Kershaw on the bench and chatted. When rookie Gavin Lux homered in his first postseason at-bat in the eighth inning, Kershaw bounced around behind the railing in excitement.

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Dodgers manager discusses having a young team in the playoffs

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