The Los Angeles Dodgers cruised to victory in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, blanking the Washington Nationals 6-0. Now they send the future Hall-of-Famer Clayton Kershaw to the mound for Game 2, while Washington will counter with Stephen Strasburg. Here’s a preview for Friday night’s game, including odds and predictions.
Nationals Hope Offense Comes Alive
Through two playoff games, the Nationals have scored a total of four runs. Three of those runs came off of the bat of Juan Soto, whose go-ahead bases-clearing hit in the Wild Card Game against Milwaukee gave Washington its first victory in a winner-take-all game in franchise history. But the bats went cold in Game 1 in Los Angeles, with Washington getting shut out and only managing two hits. Now they will have to go up against Kershaw to avoid going down 0-2 and staring elimination down.
For Game 2, Ryan Zimmerman could draw into the lineup at first base to face the lefty Kershaw. Zimmerman has a good history against Kershaw, getting 10 hits, including a home run, in 28 at-bats. If the Nationals want Howie Kendrick’s bat in the lineup again, they could slide him to second base after he recorded a pair of errors at first in Game 1, one of which brought in a run.
Other than that, expect to see all of the regulars in the lineup for the Nationals, including Soto, MVP-candidate Anthony Rendon, and speedster Trea Turner. Rendon and Turner have each faced Kershaw in the past, with each getting solid production against him.
Strasburg is making his first start of the postseason, but his second appearance after delivering three innings of scoreless relief on Tuesday against the Brewers. The veteran went 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA this season but has historically been great in the postseason, where he carries a microscopic 0.41 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 22 innings. He has faced LA twice this year, going 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA, and has a 2.54 career ERA in 11 starts against the Dodgers.
Dodgers Aim To Take Care Of Business
After two straight World Series appearances, the NLDS doesn’t carry as much weight for the Dodgers as it maybe used to. But regardless, in order to get back into the “Fall Classic,” the Dodgers will have to go through the Nationals. LA certainly started off the series on the right foot, beginning with a masterful six-inning, eight-strikeout shutout performance from Walker Buehler. They also got a three-RBI day from Max Muncy, with rookie Gavin Lux and Joc Pederson hitting solo home runs to pad the lead late.
Expect the Dodgers to go with a lefty-heavy lineup against the righty Strasburg, with Lux and Pederson likely getting starts. Staples like MVP-frontrunner Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner will start, as will the versatile Muncy. Another name to keep an eye on is outfielder A.J. Pollock. While having a down season in his first year in LA, Pollock has scorched Strasburg to the tune of 7-for-14 lifetime with a home run and pair of doubles. He, along with Turner and utility man Kike Hernandez, are the only ones with a fair amount of success against Strasburg.
Kershaw’s playoff reputation is always being debated every October. Through 24 starts in the postseason, Kershaw is 9-10 with a 4.32 ERA in 152 innings. As usual, he was strong this season, going 16-5 with a 3.03 ERA, and went six solid innings in his one start against Washington back in July. He’ll come in with plenty of rest, as he hasn’t started in eight days and has only thrown one inning of relief from last Sunday.
Odds and Pick
Up 1-0 and at home, the Dodgers are favored at -145 to win. With two elite pitchers on the mound, bettors are anticipating a low-scoring duel, with the over-under set at 7.5 runs.
As far as a prediction goes, I’m buying into Strasburg’s playoff dominance. I expect the 31-year-old to deliver a strong performance, going at least six innings with double-digit strikeouts. While I also anticipate it being low-scoring, I think Washington musters up a couple of runs late in the game off of a shaky Dodgers bullpen. Give me the Nationals +130 to steal Game 2 and head back to Washington with the series even at one.