It will be a showdown of superstars Friday in Los Angeles as the Dodgers look to take a commanding National League Division Series lead over the Washington Nationals.
Stephen Strasburg vs. Clayton Kershaw. It is all the marquee needs to read as the Nationals take on the Dodgers in Game 2 of the best-of-five series, one day after Los Angeles won the opener Thursday by shutting down the Washington offense in a 6-0 victory.
As the Dodgers elected to use the live young arm of Walker Buehler in the series opener, Kershaw (16-5, 3.03 ERA) gives the club a Game 2 option to envy, even if he does have a 4.32 ERA in 30 playoff appearances.
While his arsenal has evolved, with more reliance on breaking balls as the years have progressed, Kershaw continues to post impressive regular-season numbers.
The veteran seems to have embraced his role as the No. 2 starter in this series knowing that he could be called on to contribute in a Game 5 if needed. Admitting that the Nationals can push the Dodgers to a deciding game is not the only sign of respect from Kershaw.
“Obviously they got (Anthony) Rendon and (Juan) Soto in the middle of the lineup … but really up and down the lineup they got a ton of guys that swing the bat well,” Kershaw said. “And that’s what you see in the postseason, you see great lineups. And there’s not one way to get a guy out; you just have to continue to make pitches all the way through.”
Kershaw has been a Nationals nemesis throughout his career. He is 12-3 against them in 17 regular-season appearances (16 starts) with a 2.23 ERA. In the 2016 NLDS, he appeared in all three Dodgers victories, including the deciding Game 5 when he came on for the last two outs of the series.
The Nationals’ decision to go with Strasburg (18-6, 3.32) came as a surprise after the right-hander was used for three innings in relief during Tuesday’s wild-card victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. Strasburg has never made a start on three days of rest in his 10-year career.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez said he considers Strasburg’s 34-pitch outing Tuesday as a high-intensity between-start bullpen session.
“It is something I haven’t done in a really long time and it is what it is, so just try to focus on what you can control and just disregard everything that you can’t,” Strasburg said of his relief outing. “That’s kind of the nature of the business. Sometimes you’re going to have to deal with some things that you wouldn’t expect and bottom line is you still have to go out there and compete.”
In 11 career starts against the Dodgers, Strasburg is 3-5 with a 2.54 ERA. He has been impressive at Dodger Stadium with a 2.08 ERA over four starts (26 innings), but has yet to earn a victory there, going 0-3.
Strasburg will have his hands full with a Dodgers offense that is both patient and full of power. Los Angeles worked seven walks in Game 1 and got a pair of home runs off the bench from both Gavin Lux and Joc Pederson, who is expected to be in the starting lineup Friday.
The Dodgers have now won three consecutive playoff games against the Nationals going back to 2016 and have a chance to match their feat in last year’s NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, when they recorded shutouts in the opening two games of the series.
–Field Level Media