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Bullpen can’t clean up mess: Nationals fall 4-3 to Dodgers in finale

Jeremy Hellickson ran into trouble late and the Nats’ relief corps couldn’t bail him out.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Taylor had an impressive day at the plate and Jeremy Hellickson finished two outs shy of a quality start, but the Washington Nationals were unable to shake their bullpen woes as they fell 4-3 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night.

Taylor finished a triple shy of the cycle, swiping two bases and hitting a solo shot in the fourth. The rest of the offense, however, managed just four hits and went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

On the mound, Hellickson was nearly unhittable until the sixth inning. After allowing a pair of baserunners to reach in the first, the right-hander retired the next 14 hitters he faced before the heart of the Dodgers’ lineup got to him.

Yasmani Grandal drove in a pair of runs to knock Hellickson out of the game, setting the stage for Cody Bellinger’s RBI double that knotted the score at 3-3. Sammy Solis was pulled without retiring either of the hitters he faced and while Trevor Gott got the Nats out of the inning, he surrendered the lead an inning later.

Jeremy Hellickson’s Line: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 93 P, 57 S, 8/3 GO/FO

Washington couldn’t scrape anything together against Los Angeles’ bullpen. The Nationals put two runners on with no out against Kenley Jansen in the ninth, but they were unable to score and picked up their second straight loss.

To add insult to injury, third baseman Anthony Rendon hit the disabled list earlier Sunday evening. He joined Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy on the growing list of Nationals riding the pine while they rehab from injuries.

The Nationals’ offense has struggled amid the myriad of injuries, forcing bench players Moises Sierra and Wilmer Difo into everyday roles. Difo reached base three times, but the top three hitters in the lineup combined to go 2-for-14 in the game.

Taylor and Ryan Zimmerman have gotten off to slow starts as well, but both of them contributed to the Nats’ offensive output early on in the contest. In addition to Taylor’s three hits, he also scored two of the Nats’ three runs. Zimmerman hit a ground rule double to right in the second and scored on a Pedro Severino sacrifice fly.

Dodgers starter Alex Wood matched Hellickson’s performance and raised him two outs, cruising against everyone in the Nats’ lineup except Taylor. Following his fourth-inning homer, the Nats’ center fielder doubled to right field and scored two batters later after Wood threw a pickoff attempt away and Sierra drove him in with a deep ball to center.

Alex Wood’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 96 P, 65 S, 9/5 GO/FO

The sole bright spot of the Nats’ bullpen was Brandon Kintzler, who worked around a leadoff walk to pitch a clean eighth inning. Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani and Pedro Baez got the Dodgers into the ninth inning with their lead still intact, and Jansen picked up his second save in as many nights.

Nationals now 10-12.