LOS ANGELES — If Friday night’s game was a heavyweight bout, the Nationals got their jabs in all night against Clayton Kershaw while the Dodgers were unable to put together many combinations in a 5-2 loss to Max Scherzer in the opener of a weekend series at Dodger Stadium.
Three pitches into the game Washington swung three times against Kershaw and were rewarded with a run thanks to a double by Trea Turner and a single by Bryce Harper. The next batter, Ryan Zimmerman, was more patient waiting until the fifth pitch to hit a booming double of his own for a quick 2-0 lead.
“That was their game plan,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Knowing that Clayton was a strike-thrower, kind of get him before he gets you mentality.”
Before Friday batters were 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position against Kershaw, and that hit didn’t even score a run. In the first inning on Friday the Nationals got two such hits. Washington was 5-for-11 on Friday with runners in scoring position against Kershaw, and tacked on runs in the fifth and sixth against him.
“Max limited the damage better than I did tonight,” Kershaw said. “There were just not enough good pitches with runners in scoring position to get out of jams. When you’re going against Max it’s going to be tough.”
Against Scherzer, Chris Taylor messed around and got a triple, double (and a walk) but it was anything but a good day for the Dodgers offense.
Taylor was stranded after his triple to lead off the first inning, like the Nats also hit on the first pitch. The Dodgers have hit three triples this season, and both of the leadoff triples resulted in no runs.
The Dodgers put runners in scoring position in five of the first six innings against Scherzer but were just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position against him. An RBI single by Yasiel Puig in the sixth inning finally got the Dodgers on the scoreboard.
All that traffic on the bases taxed Scherzer to the tune of 106 pitches, enough to limit him to six innings. He did strike out nine, which helped limit the damage.
“Every pitch is elite, and he can throw it in any count,” Cody Bellinger said. “That’s what makes him so hard to hit.”
The rope-a-dope strategy briefly paid off for the Dodgers, who used two singles and a walk to score a run in the sixth then did the same against the bullpen in the seventh.
“Our offense did a good job of getting the pitch count up, getting Scherzer out of there in six innings,” Roberts said. “But there were some opportunities we had that we just couldn’t capitalize on.”
However, Pedro Baez slowed the Dodgers’ comeback climb to a crawl with a three-walk eighth inning, including walking home another insurance run for Washington.
Friday was Kershaw’s first loss to the Nationals since Aug. 6, 2010. He was 10-0 with a 1.68 ERA in his previous 11 starts against them, including the playoffs.
Corey Seager was hit twice by Scherzer. Seager is the first Dodger to get hit by two pitches in one game since — no surprise — Justin Turner on Apr. 15, 2017.
Bellinger played the final two defensive innings in left field, his first action in the outfield this season. He played 366 defensive innings in the outfield in his rookie season, including 29 starts.
Dodgers pitchers have six bases-loaded walks this season, one shy of Atlanta’s major league lead. Baez has three of them.
Hyun-jin Ryu takes the mound in the middle game of the series on Saturday night, a 6:10 p.m. PT start. Stephen Strasburg starts for the Nationals. Saturday’s SportsNet LA broadcast will be simulcast by KTLA and also shown on MLB Network, the latter subject to local blackouts.
Schedule change: The Dodgers’ series finale on Sunday, Apr. 29 against the Giants in San Francisco has been changed from a 1:05 p.m. start to a 2:05 p.m. game time.
Home runs: none
WP - Max Scherzer (4-1): 6 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts
LP - Clayton Kershaw (1-3): 7 IP, 9 hits, 4 runs, 4 strikeouts
Sv - Sean Doolittle (4): 1 IP, 1 strikeout