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The Sports Report: Dodgers lose Game 4

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Rich Hill watches a sacrafice fly by Anthony Rendon in the third inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

DODGERS

Max Scherzer allowed one run and four hits while striking out nine in seven innings as the Washington Nationals defeated the Dodgers, 6-1, to force a decisive Game 5 of their NLDS at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

With fans who braved rain chanting, “Beat LA!” in the late going, Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson combined to get the last six outs for Washington, which will send Stephen Strasburg to the mound against Walker Buehler in Game 5.

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Ryan Zimmerman showed what he still can do at the plate by taking a 97 mph pitch, the second thrown by reliever Pedro Baez, and turning it into a high-arching 400-foot-plus rainbow that descended onto the green batter’s eye in straightaway center field for a three-run shot that made it 5-1.

That was after Julio Urias, LA’s third pitcher and the one charged with the loss, began the fifth by serving up a line-drive single to Trea Turner, who finished with three hits. Anthony Rendon, who led the majors with 126 RBI during the regular season but entered Monday with just one in the playoffs, delivered a run-scoring single that made it 2-1.

Rendon also brought home runs via sacrifice flies in the third and sixth.

Read more Dodgers

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Dodgers forced into a winner-take-all Game 5 after Nationals beat them soundly

A.J. Pollock replaced by Matt Beaty after struggling at the plate

Max Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman turn back the clock in Nationals’ win over Dodgers

NLDS schedule

All times Pacific

Game 1: at Dodgers 6, Washington 0

Game 2: Washington 4, at Dodgers 2

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Game 3: Dodgers 10, at Washington 4

Game 4: at Washington 6, Dodgers 1

Game 5: Wednesday at Dodgers, 5:30 p.m., TBS, AM 570

St. Louis-Atlanta NLDS schedule

All times Pacific

Game 1: St. Louis 7, at Atlanta 6

Game 2: at Atlanta 3, St. Louis 0

Game 3: Atlanta 3, at St. Louis 1

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Game 4: at St. Louis 5, Atlanta 4 (10) (Read game story here)

Game 5: Wednesday at Atlanta, 2 p.m., TBS

New York-Minnesota ALDS schedule

All times Pacific

Game 1: at New York 10, Minnesota 4

Game 2: at New York 8, Minnesota 2

Game 3: New York 5, at Minnesota 1 (Read game story here)

Houston-Tampa Bay ALDS schedule

Game 1: at Houston 6, Tampa Bay 2

Game 2: at Houston 3, Tampa Bay 1

Game 3: at Tampa Bay 10, Houston 3 (read game story here)

Game 4: Today at Tampa Bay, 1:15 p.m., FS1

Game 5*: Thursday at Houston, 5:30 p.m., FS1

*-if necessary

NBA

Dan Woike, on the NBA-China situation: Since the 1992 Olympics, when the NBA’s best players ran all over the rest of the world, the league has sought to take basketball — its product in particular — globally. Its partnerships in China, where the game is wildly popular, have been a pivotal part of that expansion strategy.

But a single tweet from a general manager supporting protesters in Hong Kong could threaten that relationship and affect the way the public here and abroad views the league’s intentions on social issues.

On Friday, Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted an image — since deleted — that read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

Protests began in Hong Kong in June over proposed legislation that would allow for extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China — a policy that could have impacted the region’s relative autonomy. The bill was withdrawn in September, but often-violent clashes between authorities and protesters have continued.

Those words Morey tweeted caused a swell of geopolitical consequences that soon hit the NBA like a tidal wave, jeopardizing billions in business deals with companies in apparel and broadcasting. Even as increasingly violent demonstrations rage against the country’s authoritarian government, the message was clear: if you want to do business in China, you don’t criticize the government.

The Rockets, who have been among the most popular teams in China since they drafted Yao Ming with the first pick of the 2002 draft, were soon being erased from an enormous and still relatively untapped market the league and American apparel companies have coveted for years. Tencent, a Shenzhen-based technology giant that earlier this summer extended its partnership with the NBA to 2024, decided to not air the team’s games.

How the controversy might affect the Lakers isn’t clear. The team was expected to arrive in China on Tuesday afternoon (Monday in Los Angeles) and is scheduled to play two games against the Brooklyn Nets, one in Shanghai, the other in Shenzhen, which is near Hong Kong. Late Monday, an NBA official said the Nets’ scheduled visit to a Shanghai-area school had been canceled.

The NBA sought to distance itself from Morey’s comments, starting with Rockets owner Tillman Fertita, who posted his own tweet saying his general manager “doesn’t speak for the Houston Rockets” and that the Rockets are “not a political organization.”

The NBA on Sunday issued a statement acknowledging that Morey’s statement had “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.” However, the translation of that statement on Weibo, China’s micro-blogging site, had the league saying it was “greatly disappointed” at Morey’s “inappropriate speech.” Asked to clarify, Mike Bass, the league’s vice president of communications, told USA Today, “We have seen various interpretations of the translation of the Mandarin version, but our statement in English is the league’s official statement.”

Morey also tweeted an explanation: “I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.

“I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.”

USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje has five observations about the Trojans this season, but here’s the big one:

A Pac-12 championship appearance is a must, if Clay Helton has hope of staying on as coach.

For so many, this USC season has been seen only through the scope of Helton’s job status, and unless the Trojans go on a tear through the season’s second half, starting with a road win over Notre Dame this week, it’s hard to imagine the narrative shifting any time soon.

But what if the Trojans find their way to the Pac-12 title game? What if they win? Since the start of last season, USC is just 8-9. Its fan base is despondent. Its issues on the recruiting trail are real. So would a Rose Bowl be enough to forgive and forget?

We don’t know just yet. But at this point, all signs point to it taking at least that for Helton to stay on as coach past this season.

RAMS

Samson Ebukam will have a high profile Sunday when he starts in place of the injured Clay Matthews against the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC West game at the Coliseum. Consecutive losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks dropped the Rams’ record to 3-2.

The 49ers, who beat the Cleveland Browns 31-3 on Monday night, are 4-0.

Matthews, the Rams’ leader with six sacks, suffered a broken jaw in Thursday night’s 30-29 loss to the Seahawks. Coach Sean McVay initially said Matthews would be sidelined for at least a month. On Monday, he said Matthews’ jaw has been wired shut and that he might not return for as many as six weeks.

Ebukam said he is prepared to fill in for Matthews.

“I’m going to do my best to keep the seat warm for him,” Ebukam said. “I know what kind of impact player that he is. Definitely try to do my best just to live up to his reputation.”

NFL

Matt Breida ran 83 yards for a touchdown on San Francisco’s first play from scrimmage, Baker Mayfield was harassed into his worst game as a pro, and the 49ers stayed unbeaten for their best start in nearly 30 years, beating the Cleveland Browns 31-3 on Monday night.

Tevin Coleman added a 19-yard score as part of a dominant ground game on a day when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo passed for 181 yards and kicker Robbie Gould missed a pair of field goal attempts and had a third try blocked.

San Francisco (4-0) and the 5-0 New England Patriots are the only remaining undefeated teams in the NFL. It’s the first time the 49ers have won their first four games since 1990.

The Browns (2-3) are headed the opposite direction after losing two of three, with fresh concerns about their young quarterback.

Mayfield had a horrible game. The No. 1 overall pick last year, Mayfield completed 8 of 22 passes for a career-low 100 yards, had a 13.4 passer rating, threw two interceptions, fumbled twice and was sacked four times before being pulled in the fourth quarter.

YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS MOMENT

What is your favorite all-time L.A. sports moment? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com and tell me what it is and why and it could appear in a future daily sports newsletter or Morning Briefing.

This moment comes from Terry Hadley of Austin, Texas:

It is my oldest memory of an L.A. sports moment. I was 6 years old living in Downey, Calif. In 1959, 60 years ago this month, the Dodgers were in a playoff series with the Milwaukee Braves to decide the National League pennant.

I can’t recall if I was listening to the radio or watching on TV, although back then televised games were limited to games in San Francisco or special events.

The final game of the playoff series went to extra innings. Burned in my memory are the words Vin Scully used to describe the moment the Dodgers earned a World Series berth to play the Chicago White Sox.

“Up with it is Mantilla. His throw is wild! Hodges scores. We go to Chicago!”

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Kings at Calgary, 6 p.m., FSW

Ducks at Detroit, 4:30 p.m., PRIME

BORN ON THIS DATE

1876: Golfer Willie Smith (d. 1916)

1917: Baseball manager Danny Murtaugh (d. 1976)

1938: Tennis player Fred Stolle

1959: NFL player Tony Eason

1959: Former Dodger Mike Morgan

1965: Swimmer Matt Biondi

1974: NFL player Rashaan Salaam (d. 2016)

1983: Motorsports competitor Travis Pastrana

DIED ON THIS DATE

1978: Dodger player/coach Jim Gilliam, 49

2011: Raiders owner Al Davis, 82

2013: Baseball player Andy Pafko, 92

AND FINALLY

Travis Pastrana throws on a few extra pads and nails the first ever double backflip to win Moto X Best Trick at X Games 12. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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