Nats score four in ninth, take 2-1 lead over Dodgers in NLDS

Nats score four in ninth, take 2-1 lead over Dodgers in NLDS


LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth homered, and the Washington Nationals moved within one victory of winning a postseason series for the first time, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-3 Monday for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five NL playoff.

Four relievers combined for 4 2/3 shutout innings, putting the Nationals in position to wrap up the NL Division Series on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

Playing 23 hours after the Nationals tied the series at home in a rain-postponed Game 2, Rendon hit a two-run homer in a four-run third that chased Kenta Maeda. Werth added a solo shot off closer Kenley Jansen in a breakaway four-run ninth.

NL East champions for the third time in five years, the Nationals were unable to advance during their two previous trips to the postseason. They lost in the Division Series to St. Louis in 2012 and San Francisco in 2014.

The franchise has won one playoff series - the Montreal Expos beat Philadelphia following the strike-shortened 1981 season before losing to the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.

The team moved from Montreal to Washington before the 2005 season.

The Dodgers again struggled against left-handed pitching, a problem throughout the season when they had a major league-worst .213 average against lefties.

Four Washington lefty relievers stymied the Dodgers in the first two games. Facing lefty starter Gio Gonzalez in Game 3, they got three runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings.

The only Dodgers hitter with proven success against Gonzalez was catcher Carlos Ruiz, and he came through with a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the fifth that cut their deficit to 4-3.

After that, the Dodgers mustered just a pair of singles off a Nats' bullpen that included lefties Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez, and didn't advance a runner past first base. Solis wound up with the win.

It was still 4-3 when Werth homered on a 1-0 pitch from Jansen leading off the ninth. Ryan Zimmerman added a two-run double that bounced off right fielder Josh Reddick's glove at the wall - the hit scored Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper, who both walked.

Jansen, the team's all-time saves leader, was yanked. Los Angeles used all seven of its relievers in the game.

Maeda gave up four runs and five hits in three innings, struck out four and walked two in his first career start against Washington. The Japanese right-hander who won a team-leading 16 games is one of seven rookies on the Dodgers' NLDS roster.

Maeda found trouble right away against the Nats. He loaded the bases in a 28-pitch first inning on consecutive two-out walks. After a mound visit from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Maeda threw three strikes in a row to retire Zimmerman and get out of trouble.

Dodgers rookie Corey Seager continued his first-inning success in the series, hitting an RBI double off the wall for a 1-0 lead after homering in the first inning of Games 1 and 2.

Maeda retired the side in the second, striking out two, before wilting in the third. He opened the inning by giving up four hits in five batters.

Werth's RBI double in the right-field corner tied the game 1-all. Harper hit an RBI single and Rendon followed with his two-run shot to the left-field pavilion for a 4-1 lead.


Murphy went 0 for 4 with a strikeout and a walk after going 4 for 6 in the first two games. Last year's NLCS MVP came in hitting .408 with three homers and five RBIs in seven postseason games against the Dodgers.


The Dodgers were 28-16 in day games during the regular season, tops in the majors. They averaged over half a run more during day games than at night. Game 4 on Tuesday is another daytime start.


Nationals SS Danny Espinosa got hit by a pitch from Maeda in the third inning, the third time he's been hit, which is the most in NLDS history. He trails Shane Victorino, who was hit four times in the 2013 ALDS against Boston for most in a division series in major league history.


Nationals manager Dusty Baker got his nickname as a kid playing football in his backyard, which was covered in green grass except for one spot.

"It always seems that I ended up in the dirt spot and always got dirty," he said. "But my mother didn't want to call me Dirty so she called me Dusty. It stuck and all of my friends called me Dusty since I was a kid. The only people who called me Johnnie were my teachers. If somebody calls me Johnnie B., it kind of gets my attention. If they call me Dusty, I just wave."


1988 World Series MVP Orel Hershiser tossed out the ceremonial first pitch to Steve Sax, his teammate during that championship season. The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since then.


Dodgers rookie Julio Urias (5-2, 3.39 ERA) is scheduled to start Game 4, but the Dodgers could bring back Game 1 winner Clayton Kershaw on short rest with their season on the line. Urias made two starts against the Nationals this season. He allowed two runs and six hits in five innings of a no-decision at home on June 22. The left-hander allowed one run in four innings on July 21 at Washington. The Dodgers won both games.

The Nationals have yet to announce their starter. It's possible RHP Joe Ross would start Game 4 and Game 1 loser Max Scherzer would take the mound if Game 5 is necessary.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”