Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman celebrates as he runs the bases after his … [+] three-run home run in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park on October 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The Washington Nationals have lived to see another day.
Max Scherzer did not have a completely stress-free evening as he attempted to keep the season going, but he was dominating enough against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLDS Monday at Nationals Park.
Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals delivers in the rain during the seventh inning of Game 4 of … [+] the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park on October 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Scherzer threw 109 pitches across seven innings of one-run ball, putting in the performance Washington needed in order to claim a 6-1 victory, tie the series 2-2 and force a decisive Game 5 on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
His only mistake was a solo home run to Justin Turner in the first inning. Scherzer pitched around two runners on in the second, a runner on in the fourth and a bases loaded with one out jam in the seventh. His third, fifth and sixth innings were all perfect.
The plan going in was to have Scherzer pitch as long as he could to bridge the gap to Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson, Washington’s only trustworth relievers. Doolittle pitched a perfect 1 1/3 innings before Hudson got the final two outs.
In what was an elimination game for Washington, it’s important that they preserved Stephen Strasburg’s arm for Game 5.
Scherzer proved why he is a big-game pitcher and one of the best all-around pitchers this league has: He struck out seven, walked three and allowed four hits. More critically, he ensured that Washington wouldn’t have to use Strasburg or a lower-tier reliever in this game.
It will be Strasburg versus Walker Buehler in Game 5, the same Buehler that quieted Washington’s lineup in Game 1.
Washington’s offense looked just fine in Game 4, however.
The Nats evened the score at 1-1 on a sacrifice fly from Anthony Rendon in the third inning against Rich Hill. Rendon struck again in the fifth inning with an RBI single off of Julio Urias. Later in the inning, Ryan Zimmerman—in potentially his last home game as a National—hit a three-run home run off of Pedro Baez for a 5-1 lead. Rendon added another sac fly in the sixth to complete the scoring.
All the Nationals had to do was hold on after that.
The only real threat in the final innings came in the seventh, when Scherzer—nearing 100 pitches—allowed a single and two walks to load the bases with one out. He then struck out Chris Taylor and got Joc Pederson to ground out—but not before Pederson sliced a foul ball down the right-field line that was mere inches from landing fair and scoring at least two runs.
Pederson’s foul ball was the only time Scherzer needed a bit of luck. He was otherwise dominating when he needed to be.
One day after the Dodgers knocked 14 hits, tying for the third-most in a postseason game in franchise history, Los Angeles managed just five.
If Strasburg can mimic his 10-strikeout performance from Game 2, the Nats will be in a prime position to advance to the NLCS for the first time since the franchise moved from Montreal in 2005. Washington has had three NLDS Game 5 matchups at home since 2012 and lost all of them. Now, the Nationals have a chance to prove themselves on the road.
On the Dodgers’ side, they will face elimination for the 12th time during their current run of seven consecutive playoff appearances. So far, they are 5-6 overall and 3-3 at home.
Something has to give.