The game was billed as a battle between two of the premier starters in all of baseball: Stephen Strasburg -- The Phenom -- against Clayton Kershaw -- The Master. It would have been the rarest of statistical anomalies: Two starters with a combined 20-1 record to start the season.
According to STATS, LLC., no other N.L. pitching match-up in over 100 years has featured two starting pitchers with double-digit win totals facing off this early (by date) in a season -- the previous earliest date it happened in was in 1962, when another pretty good Dodgers' lefty -- Sandy Koufax (10-2) -- faced the Reds' Bob Purkey (12-1) met on June 22.
Strasburg was scratched about an hour before game time with what the team called an "upper back strain" and everyone was left with a slightly less-appealing matchup: Kershaw against Yusmeiro Petit, the veteran swingman making his first start in a Nats uniform and first since May 23, 2015 for the Giants in the second game of a doubleheader, in which he gave up four earned runs in six innings in a 5-3 loss.
Petit pitched gamely for six innings but Kershaw was better and the Washington Nationals fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1 at Chavez Ravine, extending the Nats modest losing streak to three games and making them 2-3 on the current 10-game, 11-day road trip.
The Dodgers went to work on Petit right away, with Justin Turner -- the third batter of the game - taking him deep for his 10th home run of the season. Petit settled down through, tossing 1-2-3 innings in the second and third. Petit did survive another scare -- Yasmani Grandal's third inning drive had the distance but was just foul -- and confirmed on replay.
Petit matched Kershaw, striking out four through the first three innings. The Nats emergency starter even provided the team's first hit of the game -- his fifth career hit (in 125 plate appearances) and first since Sept. 9, 2014.
But Petit ran into trouble in the fourth. Corey Seager hit a drive to left that Jayson Werth seemed to freeze on at first. The ball bounced on the track and into the stands for a ground-rule double. Turner followed with a single to right and Seager raced home with the Dodgers second run. Petit was able to induce a double-play grounder from Adrian Gonzalez to limit the damage.
There was more trouble in the fifth for Petit. Joc Pederson led off with a massive homer to right -- his 13th -- to make it 3-0.
With one out in the sixth, Michael Taylor extended his hot streak, doubling off Kershaw for a hit in his 18th straight start. But Werth struck out on a ball in the dirt and Bryce Harper struck out -- for the third time in the game -- to strand Taylor at second.
Petit gave up another double to Seager in the sixth and a two out walk to Gonzalez, but Trayce Thompson struck out to end the inning.
Overall, Petit gave up three earned runs on five hits and one walk, striking out five, in six innings. He threw 94 pitches, 60 for strikes. It was meritorious service for a guy who found out he'd be starting about an hour before gametime.
Daniel Murphy singled to lead off the seventh against Kershaw. Zimmerman forced him at second, but Wilson Ramos singled through the hole on the right side and Zimmerman deked the right fielder and took third on the play. Anthony Rendon then singled on a ground ball to the right side and Zimmerman walked home with the Nats first -- and only -- run.
Danny Espinosa lined out to left and on the first pitch to pinch-hitter Chris Heisey, Kershaw bounced one -- his third wild pitch of the season -- and both runners moved up. But on a 2-2 pitch, Heisey flied out to end the threat.
Kershaw was finished after that in the mid-90s heat of L.A. In seven innings he gave up one run on six hits and -- of course -- no walks with eight punchouts.
Oliver Perez took over for the Nats in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Howie Kendrick doubled to right. Grandal struck out, and they intentionally walked Kike Hernandez to face Chase Utley. The strategy didn't work -- Utley singled on a 3-2 pitch to plate Kendrick and give the Dodgers an insurance run.
The Nats went quietly against Joe Blanton in the eighth, and Kenley Jansen set the Dodgers career saves record (162) with a perfect ninth inning of work.
WP: Kershaw (11-1) LP: Petit (2-1) SV: Jansen (20) HR: Turner (10), Pederson (13) E: None.
NEXT GAME: Second of a three-game set in L.A. Tanner Roark (6-4, 3.14) faces Scott Kazmir (5-3, 4.64).
- Washington has won seven of its last 10, 10 of its last 14, and 14 of its last 20 games, playing at a .700 clip since May 29.
- The Nationals have built a National League East division lead from zero to 5.5 games in that span. During this stretch, Washington is averaging 5.9 runs per game and is outscoring opponents, 118-84.
- At 43-27 (.614), the Nationals have posted their best record through 70 games in club history (2005-pres.), and matched the 1979 Expos for the best record in franchise history.
- The Nationals also boast the third-best record in the National League, behind only the San Francisco Giants (44-26, .629) and the Chicago Cubs (47-20, .701). Washington’s 43-27 record is also tied for the fourth-best record in the Major Leagues, behind the Giants, Texas Rangers (45-25, .643) and the Cubs.
- Nationals CF Michael A. Taylor put together one of the best games of his young career on Sunday afternoon, going 4 for 4 with two home runs, a double, two RBI and two runs scored at Petco Park. Taylor’s first home run, on the game’s very first pitch, was his third leadoff home run of the season and fifth of his career. His second made Sunday the first multi-homer game of his career. Taylor had posted four hits in a game only once previously, July 25, 2015 at PIT.
- According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Taylor is just the third player in franchise history (Nationals/Expos) to produce four or more hits in a game, including at least two homers, from the leadoff spot. Taylor joined esteemed company in doing so, adding his name to a list that includes Hall-of-Famer Andre Dawson (1979) and Alfonso Soriano (2006).
- The Nationals, who have faced just 14 left-handed starting pitchers this season, are in the midst of a stretch in which they’ll face four consecutive lefty starters, which started Sunday in San Diego. As a team, the Nationals are batting .271 against left-handed pitching this season, and their 25 home runs off southpaws are tied for the third-most in the National League.
- Nationals 2B Daniel Murphy picked up his National League-best 29th multi-hit game of the season on Friday night with a double and a home run off SDP LHP Christian Friedrich. The home run was Murphy’s 12th of the year, but it was his first against a left-handed pitcher this season. Against left-handed pitching in 2016, Murphy is hitting .329...With his two hits on Friday night, Murphy is now batting an even .400 (62-for-155) (vs. RHP & LHP) in Nationals victories this year.
- Murphy leads MLB in batting average (.358). He leads the N.L. and ranks among MLB hitters in multi-hit games (T2nd, 29), OPS (2nd, .995), and hits (3rd, 92) while his .399 on-base percentage is 12th in MLB and eighth in the National League.