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Bullpen holds Nationals down, Dodgers break away late for sweep

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LA in 6 bullpen games this season: 2.04 ERA, never allowing more than 3 runs in a game

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Just like every other bullpen game used by the Dodgers this season, Sunday was a low-scoring affair, at least for a while. The Nationals had an excellent start, but Los Angeles provided the relief in a 5-1 win that completed a four-game road sweep of Washington.

That’s nine straight wins for the Dodgers, who are 7-0 against the Nationals this season, outscoring Washington 39-16.

With a well-rested bullpen heading into Sunday morning’s series finale, the Dodgers used eight pitchers and struck out 11 batters in the win.

“The bullpen was fantastic,” said Dave Roberts. “It was special.”

A walk by Phil Bickford and two singles allowed by Victor Gonzalez gave the Nationals their only run of the game, in the third inning.

The Dodgers answered with a home run by Matt Beaty in the fourth, his first since June 1, snapping a 46-plate-appearance power drought. Joe Ross was otherwise fantastic, striking out 11 in his 6⅔ innings.

Both teams had trouble scoring early in a game that was started at breakfast time, after a night game that included a rain delay of an hour, 44 minutes.

“I don’t know who thought it was ever a good idea to have a 7:15 game, then follow it up with the 11 a.m. game,” said Max Muncy. “That’s probably one of the worst decisions I’ve seen.”

“Today was a heavy coffee day, for sure,” said shortstop Gavin Lux, who had three hits.

But the Dodgers got to Ross in the seventh inning, and won the game by untying the knot.

Something old: Albert Pujols delivered a pinch-hit single off Ross to score Lux, who doubled, for the go-ahead run. It was the sixth hit in 44 at-bats against a right-handed pitcher since joining the Dodgers for Pujols, who is hitting .360/.396/.700 in 50 plate appearances against lefties with LA.

Something new: Earlier, in the third inning, Phil Bickford batted for the first time as a professional (he also never batted in college, either at Cal State Fullerton or the College of Southern Nevada). Bickford struck out on three pitches

Something borrowed: When Roberts said before the game that everyone was available in Sunday’s bullpen game, I assumed he meant relief pitchers. But in came starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin to pinch run for Pujols, the first major league game for Gonsolin at something other than pitcher. Muncy followed with a two-out double against left-hander Brad Hand, scoring Gonsolin from first.

The Dodgers on the season have hit 47 doubles with a runner on first base, and 17 times that runner has scored on the play (36.1 percent), slightly below the MLB average of 41.3 percent.

Something blew: With runs at a premium at the time, every mistake gets magnified. Josh Bell singled just out of reach of a diving Beaty in left field in the sixth, but when he tried to stretch it into a double, Bell made it safely but slid past the bag, and was tagged out. Alcides Escobar doubled to right two batters later, but had nobody on the bases to drive in.

The Dodgers also blew the game open in the ninth, punctuated by a two-run double that confounded former two-time Gold Glove Award winner Gerardo Parra in center field.

Painful Sunday

Three Dodgers were hit by pitches on Sunday, including two in the head area. Austin Barnes, who started at catcher, was hit flush in the helmet by a 93.7-mph two-seam fastball in the fourth inning, and amazingly shrugged it off on his way to first.

In the ninth inning, Wander Suero hit pinch-hitter Justin Turner with a 91.3-mph cutter, a ball that hit Turner’s face, but only after it deflected off his shoulder. Roberts immediately sprinted to home plate to check on Turner, but he appeared okay.

“I didn’t like it at all,. It’s dangerous” said Muncy. “I definitely don’t think it was on purpose. I think it was just a couple balls that got away. Luckily they were glances, instead of solid contact.”

Later in the ninth, Andres Machado hit AJ Pollock in the shoulder with a 94.1-mph fastball. Three hit by pitches matched the season high for the Dodgers, who were hit by five Nationals pitches during the series. On the season, the Dodgers lead the majors with 60 HBP.

Sunday particulars

Home run: Matt Beaty (4)

WP — David Price (4-0): 2 IP, 2 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

LP — Joe Ross (5-8): 6⅔ IP, 7 hits, 3 runs, 11 strikeouts

Up next

The Dodgers shuffle off to Miami, where rain is expected throughout the series, especially with the potential arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa. “We’re just trying to get there, be safe,” Roberts said. “We’re just hoping and praying we all stay safe.”

Weather permitting, Walker Buehler starts Monday’s series opener (3:40 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA). Left-hander Trevor Rogers starts for Miami.