The Washington Nationals went all-out in Game 2 to even up the NLDS vs the Dodgers, with ace Max Scherzer even coming in to pitch out of the bullpen in a 4-2 victory.
Washington starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg was brilliant in six innings, allowing just one run, three hits, and no walks to go with 10 strikeouts. In the eighth inning, Scherzer made a surprise relief appearance and struck out the side in filthy fashion.
Reliever Max Scherzer. pic.twitter.com/UnsC2DrkNF
— MLB (@MLB) October 5, 2019
Pocket Aces. pic.twitter.com/lfd4wpTtNe
— MLB (@MLB) October 5, 2019
Stephen Strasburg, postseason career:
0.64 ERA, 4 BB, 38 K.
He has faced 107 batters without giving up a home run.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) October 5, 2019
On the other side, Clayton Kershaw’s postseason struggles continued. The southpaw was still able to turn in a “quality start” with three earned runs allowed in six innings, but all of those runs came in the first two innings. Getting out to an early 3-0 lead with Strasburg on the mound quickly put the Nats in pretty good shape.
With the score 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers had a rally brewing. Nats manager Davey Martinez made a very questionable decision in putting Max Muncy on base as the tying run, with Dodgers rookie catcher Will Smith on deck. Smith had 24 extra-base hits and 15 homers in 170 at-bats this season, and this is a spot where a double likely ties the game, with a homer winning it.
And the decision to intentionally walk Muncy looked even more questionable when Smith walked to load the bases. But Daniel Hudson got Corey Seager to whiff on a nasty slider to end the game:
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) October 5, 2019
So, the series is now tied 1-1 and heads to DC. The Nats did what they needed to in winning at least one in Los Angeles, and now they have home-field advantage for two of three (if necessary) remaining games in the best-of-five series.
The main question after Scherzer was used as a reliever on Friday night: who starts Game 3 for Washington? And if it’s not Scherzer, was it wise to use him as a reliever with a two-run lead in Game 2?
Scherzer only threw 14 pitches, and it could be treated as a “side session” in between starts, but 14 pitches max-effort pitches — 98 mph fastballs and wipeout sliders — in a playoff game is more than your average side session (especially when you factor in his warm-up pitches, etc). So, it’s easy to see him not being able to start Game 3. Of course, he’s only starting one game in this series regardless, so maybe it makes sense for him to get more rest and start Game 4. But the Nats likely entered this series wanting to start only Strasburg, Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin in the five-game series. On paper, that’s their path (and a very realistic one, even) to beating the juggernaut Dodgers.
The other side of it all is of course that the Nats had to do everything to win this game, or else there may not even be a Game 4. So, it’s understandable that they wanted to use Scherzer in an effort to lock down the win.
It will be interesting to see who gets the start for Washington in Sunday’s Game 3, but we at least know that Hyun-Jin Ryu will take the mound for the Dodgers.