NLDS: It’s win or stay home for Dodgers and Nationals

LOS ANGELES, CA (News4usonline) – Game 5. Uh-oh. Here comes trouble. Those 106 wins that the Los Angeles Dodgers racked up during the 2019 regular season won’t mean squat should the Boys in Blue fail to knock off the Washington Nationals in the fifth and deciding game of their National League Division Series (NLDS).

Yes, this is what it all boils down to: a one-game elimination playoff. Stockpiling all those victories and gaining homefield advantage would just fly out the window if the Nationals walked into Dodger Stadium and do the unthinkable: beat the Dodgers at their own game on their turf.

It’s quite possible that can happen. It’s also a possibility that the Dodgers will stiff-arm this latest test on their road to another possible World Series appearance. That is the beauty of the Major League Baseball playoffs. It’s win or go home.

After Game 2, for a second there, it looked like the Dodgers would get knee-deep into the Nationals’ pitching kaleidoscope. But in Game 3 of the NLDS, the Dodgers responded big time from their Game 2 shrink down moment. Dodgers hitters whiffed 17 times in Game 2. But they made up for that disappointment with a redeeming victory in Game 3. The Dodgers’ 10-4 win in Game 3 appeared it would be a momentum-changer in the series.

October 4, 2019 © Dennis J Freeman/News4usonline – Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy (13) in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.

That’s because the most lingering question coming from the Nationals’ 3-2 win against the Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLDS was how would Los Angeles respond? Well, they responded pretty well. The Dodgers are not used to being shocked too many times.

After all, when you win more than 100 games during the regular season, there is nothing that really surprises you. But last Friday night at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers received an unwelcome turn of events when Washington handed them their food and napkin, and their first defeat of the playoffs.

The Nationals took it a step further, serving the Dodgers with a second defeat in the shortened series, claiming a 6-1 win in Game 4. This brings us to Game 5, where anything and everything can happen. What should have been a series-ending game for the Dodgers turned out to be a lifesaver for the Nationals, thanks to the wickedly fascinating  pitching of three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.

And now, the Dodgers get to see Washington ace Stephen Strasburg for the second time in this series. It is because of Strasburg that the Nationals have a postseason pulse in the first place. Strasburg took the mound in Game 2 and struck out 10 batters in Washington’s 4-2 win.

October 4, 2019 © Dennis J Freeman/News4usonline – The Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals square off in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

The Nationals made things very interesting with that victory.  The Dodgers thought they had restored order in the series, a prolonged exercise that features the dynamics of the Dodgers’ hit machine versus the outstanding pitching of the Nationals. That tug-o-war was there during the regular season when the Dodgers edged the Nationals in head-to-head matchups, 4-3. In those seven games, the Dodgers outscored the Nationals by just three runs, 30-27.

So, maybe Washington’s win in Game 2 was not unexpected. That makes what they did in Game 4 even more improbable. Whatever the case, the Nationals are hoping to knock off the Dodgers and advance to the League Championship Series (LCS).

Washington was able to temporarily flip the series against the Dodgers with what matters most in the postseason: strong pitching. The Nationals got that and a whole lot more from starter Strasburg and three other pitchers to record 17 strikeouts against the hometown Dodgers. In six innings of work, Strasburg allowed one run and three hits to go along with his 10Ks.

In tying the series, Strasburg bested Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who gave up three runs in the first two innings. For the game, Kershaw gave up six hits and those three runs, which was enough for Washington to defeat the Dodgers. Kershaw, who will not be taking the mound as the Dodgers Game 5 starter, got touched up early when Howie Kendrick drove home Trea Turner with an RBI single.

October 4, 2019 © Dennis J Freeman/News4usonline – Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw absorbed a loss in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.

Things could have gotten a lot uglier for the Dodgers as the Nationals loaded the bases against Kershaw in the top half of the first inning. Kershaw worked himself out of that jam and was able to surrender just that one run. However, back in the top of the second inning, Washington came right back at Kershaw when Adam Eaton singled home Victor Robles for one run.

Washington added its second run in the inning when Anthony Rendon connected on a Kershaw pitch for a double, driving home Eaton. Just like that, the Dodgers saw themselves in an immediate hole, one that they were not able to come back from.

That’s because, in large part Strasburg and his pitching teammates were zip-lining through batters like it was water. Besides the 10 Ks that Strasburg recorded, Sean Doolittle (2 strikeouts), Scherzer (3 strikeouts), and Daniel Hudson (2 strikeouts) each got in on the action in their one inning of work, respectively.

The Dodgers managed just five hits off Washington pitchers in Game 2. That may or may not bode well for the Dodgers, a team that recorded Major League Baseball’s second-best record.

The Nationals, the National League’s wildcard game winner after beating Milwaukee, wasn’t even supposed to be here, given their awful start to the regular season. However, Washington caught fire in the second half of the season, made their way into the wildcard game, put the skids on the Brewers’ postseason hopes, and now stand one game away from a major upset.

Washington’s two victories is not an abbreviation. The Nationals has a top-notch pitching rotation, one that includes 18-game winner Strasburg (regular season) and Scherzer. The Dodgers, with all the offensive firepower that they have at their disposal, will need to bring it to the plate in Game 5. However the series turns out, the thunder of the Dodgers bats matched against the lights out pitching of the Nationals have already given baseball fans their money’s worth.

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