The Los Angeles Dodgers will try to take a two games to none lead over the Washington Nationals in their National League Division Series Friday evening at Dodger Stadium following a 6-0 victory in the series opener.
Walker Buehler and three relievers combined on a two-hitter and the Dodgers broke the game open on Max Muncy’s two-run single in the seventh inning and solo home runs by pinch-hitter Gavin Lux and Joc Pederson in the eighth Thursday to begin the best-of-five series.
“Our guys grind,” Dodger third baseman Justin Turner said. “Nine innings, 27 outs. We don’t take pitches off. We might not get them right away, but like we did tonight, take our walks, take good at-bats, then let the next guy get the big hit.”
Left-hander Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers Friday, seeking to even his career postseason record. Kershaw is 9-10 with a 4.32 ERA in 30 postseason appearances, including 24 starts.
Kershaw faced the Nationals once during the 2019 regular season, allowing two earned runs on three hits in six innings, striking out nine and walking three and was credited with the win in a 9-3 victory July 27. Kershaw is 12-3 with a 2.23 ERA lifetime against Washington in the regular season. He was 1-0 with a 5.84 ERA against the Nationals in a 2016 division series and recorded his only save as a major leaguer.
Right-hander Stephen Strasburg will start for Washington, three days after a 34-pitch, three-inning relief stint in the Nationals 4-3 victory the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League wild card game where he was credited with the win in his first relief appearance since he was a freshman at San Diego State in 2007.
“He said he felt great and he wanted to pitch, so he’s ready to go,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said before Thursday’s game. “I wanted to make sure that he was good to go today. For me it’s like he threw a side of 34 pitches with intensity. That’s the way I looked at it the other day. So he says he feels really good, so he’s ready to go.”
Martinez said he has not placed any limitations on Strasburg.
“He’s going to go out there and pitch and hopefully he gives us seven, eight strong innings,” Martinez said.
Strasburg was 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA against the Dodgers in the regular season. He allowed two runs and four hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking two in a 6-0 loss May 12 at Dodger Stadium. Strasburg allowed one run and two hits, striking out nine, not walking a batter but hitting two in an 11-4 victory at Washington July 28.
Buehler struck out eight, walked three and allowed a second-inning inning single to Juan Soto in six innings Thursday, becoming the first National League pitcher to have back-to-back postseason starts pitching six or more innings while allowing two or fewer hits, according to STATS, which bills itself as the world’s leading sports data and technology company.
Buehler allowed two hits in seven shutout innings in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, receiving a no decision in the Dodgers 3-2, 18-inning victory.
“From that first throw he was on point tonight,” Dodger manager Dave Roberts said. “And the delivery, the tempo, all consistent. Fastball command to all quadrants. The slower breaking ball, I loved with the depth. The cutter, when he needed it. So that’s a really good lineup over there and for him to go six … we needed that one.”
The closest the Nationals came to scoring against Buehler was in the fourth inning when a two-out walk to Howie Kendrick loaded the bases after Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon walked earlier in the inning.
The walk to Kendrick prompted a visit to the mound by Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. Buehler threw a curve ball on the first pitch to Asdrubal Cabrera, who swung and missed. Buehler then threw another curve ball that Cabrera grounded to Buehler for the third out.
The Dodgers opened the scoring in the first as Washington starter Patrick Corbin became the second pitcher to issue four walks in the first inning he pitched in the post season, joining Art Reinhart of the St. Louis Cardinals, who walked four in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the 1926 World Series against the New York Yankees, according to STATS.
Muncy walked on a 3-1 count to force in A.J. Pollock, who led off by walking on six pitches.
The Dodgers increased their lead to 2-0 in the fifth. Cody Bellinger walked on a full count with two outs, moved to third on Chris Taylor’s single and scored on an error by Kendrick, the Nationals first baseman, on a ground ball hit by Muncy.
Lux became the youngest Dodger to homer in a postseason game at 21 years, 314 days. The home run came on his first career postseason plate appearance.
“If you had told me four months ago that I’d be playing in the postseason I probably wouldn’t believe you,” Lux said. “Very surreal moment. This is kind of what every kid dreams about, so for me, it was kind of a long time coming. It was pretty cool.”
Roberts called the home run “a great moment for Gavin, it’s a great moment for his family.”
“I wanted him in there to take the at-bat to keep his defense in there for that ninth inning,” Roberts said. “For Gavin to take that first postseason at-bat and hit a homer, I can’t say I expected it, but I’m very happy for him.”
The Dodgers selected Lux’s contract from their Triple-A Oklahoma City affiliate Sept. 2, one day after the major league rosters expanded to 40 players. He began the season with their Double-A affiliate in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Lux was selected as Baseball America’s 2019 Minor League Player of the Year for hitting .347 with 26 homers and 76 RBI in 113 games with Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Auto gates will open at 4:10 p.m. and stadium gates at 4:40 p.m. Pregame activities will begin at 6:15 p.m. for the 6:37 p.m. game.
After setting a single-season franchise attendance record this year, the Dodgers will honor longtime season ticket members with ceremonial first pitches during the NLDS. Chuck Berney, who is celebrating his 50th anniversary as a Dodger season ticket member, will throw Friday’s ceremonial first pitch.
The national anthem will be sung by 9-year-old Madison Baez of Yorba Linda. She also sang the national anthem before the Dodgers Father’s Day game. Her father Chris was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.
Fans are encouraged to arrive early, purchase parking in advance, carpool or take a ride-hailing service.
Postseason ticket information is available at Dodgers.com/Postseason.