Washington’s Nationals scored two runs on two hits in the first inning against Los Angeles Dodgers’ lefty Clayton Kershaw in the southpaw’s late-July start in the nation’s capital, but the veteran starter tossed five scoreless innings after giving up those early runs, striking a total of eight of 19 batters out after the bottom of the first, and allowing just one hit in the rest of his time on the mound.
“He’s really good,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said after a 9-3 loss to Kershaw and the Dodgers that day.
“He made his pitches when he had to,” Martinez added.
“We jumped on him early and then he was very effective using both sides of the plate, and when he gets like that it’s tough. He’s tough.”
Kershaw, who’ll start against the Nationals for the second time in 2019 tonight in Game 2 of the NLDS, talked in his pre-start press conference yesterday about the lineup he’ll face with a 1-0 lead in the Division Series after last night’s 6-0 win for the Dodgers.
“It’s a great team, yeah, 1 through 8, they really swing the bats well,” Kershaw said.
“Obviously they got [Anthony] Rendon and [Juan] Soto in the middle of the lineup that had great seasons and are great players all the way around. But really up and down the lineup they got a ton of guys that swing the bat well. And that’s what you see in the postseason, you see great lineups.
“And there’s not one way to get a guy out you just have to continue to make pitches ... all the way through.”
After last night’s loss, the Nationals’ manager, and some of the Nats’ players, talked about the fact they’ve been pressing in the first two games of the postseason, struggling to get much of anything going until late in the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday and getting shut out in the NLDS opener.
“Yeah, we told the guys, hey, just be yourself,” Martinez said after last night’s loss. “Don’t try to do too much. We have been really good on hitting the balls throughout the whole field. So let’s continue to do that. And take your walks. We’re really good at taking our walks, we have been good taking our walks, let’s just go up there and take our walks.”
“Right now I think we’re trying a little too hard,” shortstop Trea Turner told reporters.
“I think just have a little more fun and continue doing what we’re doing ... I think we put together good at bats, we’re just trying to do a little too much.”
If they were pressing in the first two games this week, how do they calm things down and get back to doing what’s worked for them at the plate this season?
“I think everybody wants to help out,” Turner said.
“Everybody wants to contribute. Energy in the stadium. It’s kind of an atmosphere thing, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s not easy to play it like every other game, because it’s the postseason, but for me I think we should have a little bit of fun.”
“Just forget about it and we’ve got four more,” Juan Soto said in discussing how the team can move on from their loss last night. “So we’ve got to keep playing good baseball. It doesn’t matter what happens today, we’ve got to win the series, and that’s what it’s all about, win the series and come to fight tomorrow.”
“You’re going to lose games,” Howie Kendrick said, “... you try to look at it like it’s another game, obviously they’re limited, but you’ve just got to go out tomorrow and just compete and forget about today and just move forward. That’s what we do every day during the season and we try to treat this no differently.”
As Turner said though, as important as a win tonight would be, it’s not really a must-win situation at this point.
“No,” he said, “not unless tomorrow is an elimination game.”
It’s not, but a loss that puts them in a 2-0 hole would make things a lot more difficult in a best-of-five series.