The Dodgers got a taste of what may be to come against Max Scherzer, and if it looks anything like what happened in Game 2, Sunday’s matchup won’t be pretty.
Scherzer made an appearance out of the bullpen, completely shutting down the Dodgers offense in the eighth. He struck out the side in 14 pitches, making it a quick and efficient outing.
“When you get to these games,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said, “You’re playing to win one game. Every day is crucial. We had a chance to win today. And I told [Scherzer], if the game’s close then we’ll use you. And we did that.”
Martinez said he wants to make sure Scherzer is getting enough rest before officially confirming him as the Game 3 starter. However, given the length of Scherzer’s relief inning, it wouldn’t come as a complete surprise if he’s ready to take the mound.
Scherzer faced some early struggles in his last outing in the NL Wild Card game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Washington D.C. He allowed three runs in the first two innings, but settled down through the rest of his outing. He exited with a two-run deficit after five frames, but received a no-decision since the Nationals came back to win late in the game.
Patience at the plate will be the Dodgers’ key to success in retaking the series lead. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Stephen Strasburg’s breaking ball was tough for Dodgers hitters and he doesn’t expect this problem again.
“It’s one of those things I don’t want to look too much into,” Roberts said. “We’re going to have a different arm for Game 3, so we’ll be ready and I’ll be certain we won’t punch 17 times.”
On the other side, Hyun-Jin Ryu will get the first game in Washington. The left hander was cruising all year until running into some pitching problems in the last couple months of the regular season.
In addition to the Dodgers bats making the Nationals pitcher work, it’s crucial that Ryu returns to full-season form and limits the damage done on the Nationals front. He is familiar with pitching in the postseason, as this will be his eighth career start in playoff games.
“The mindset has to change when it comes to postseason games,” Ryu said. “I feel healthier this season compared to the past seasons ... My job is to go out there and make sure to put up zeros and try to give up the least amount of runs as a starting pitcher and just go hard from the get-go.”
NLDS Game 3 will happen on Sunday, Oct. 6 at 4:45 p.m. PT.