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Nationals can only offer kudos to Kershaw


Nationals can only offer kudos to Kershaw

The afternoon, unusual as it was, started off in such uplifting fashion. The Nationals used a pinch-hit home run from Matt den Dekker and three scoreless innings of relief from Aaron Barrett, Casey Janssen and Drew Storen to win the completion of Friday night's suspended game, 5-3 over the Dodgers.

And then Clayton Edward Kershaw, 27-year-old left-hander from Los Angeles via Dallas, took the mound at Nationals Park and all those good vibes dissipated into the thick midsummer air, overcome by as dominant a pitching performance as has been seen in these parts in a long time.

Over eight utterly brilliant innings, Kershaw turned the Nationals lineup into mincemeat. He allowed only three hits, all singles. He didn't issue any walks. He struck out 14 batters, most ever by an opposing pitcher since the Nats franchise arrived in town a decade ago. He induced 30 swings-and-misses, matching the most recorded by any major-league pitcher in the last seven years, during what wound up a 4-2 victory for the Dodgers.

"He put on a clinic today," said Bryce Harper, only the best hitter in the game at this moment. "He went out there and pitched like the MVP he is. It was devastating. We went in there and tried to do what we could. But he's the best pitcher in baseball. He's pretty tough."

The two guys who will take the mound Sunday afternoon for what is now the rubber game of this series — Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke — could certainly stake claim to that title right now. But what Kershaw has done over the last five seasons — three Cy Young Awards, the NL MVP, a 2.20 collective ERA — allows him to hold that distinction, even if 2015 has been a bit of a down year by his lofty standards.

RELATED: Nats fall 4-2 thanks to dominant performance by Kershaw

And rarely has Kershaw, or anybody else, pitched as well as he did Saturday on sweltering South Capitol Street.

Over those eight innings, the Nationals managed three measly singles: Clint Robinson in the second, Doug Fister in the third, Danny Espinosa in the sixth. Those were the only men who reached base against him, with only Espinosa advancing beyond first base and only because of Justin Turner's throwing error.

And it's not like the other guys were hitting the ball hard right at Dodgers defenders. Only three of the 24 outs Kershaw recorded came via flyballs.

No, the Nationals barely could make contact against the tall Texan lefty. Kershaw struck out two batters in each of his first seven innings, inducing a staggering 30 swings-and-misses along the way.

"Unfortunately, I've seen that way too much," said manager Matt Williams, who previously coached the Diamondbacks, a regular NL West opponent of the Dodgers. "He's a pretty good pitcher. He establishes strikes and then goes down out of the zone. I don't know how many curveballs he threw today, probably 15 of them. He may have thrown one for a ball. That's why he's good."

Maybe the only mistake Kershaw made all day was not convince Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly to send him back to the mound for the ninth. With his starter's pitch count at 101 on one of the hottest days of the summer, and with his team up 4-0 at the time, Mattingly decided to send Kershaw to the showers and summon closer Kenley Jansen to the mound for the ninth.

That move gave the Nationals just a glimmer of hope. Washington native Emmanuel Burriss, getting his first career at-bat in D.C. while playing for his hometown team, singled up the middle to bring Harper to the plate. The 2015 MVP frontrunner then launched a Jansen pitch into the second deck in right field, his 27th homer of the season cutting the Dodgers' lead in half.

That's as far as the comeback ever got, though. Jansen struck out both Yunel Escobar and Robinson to end the game and ensure Kershaw's dominant stats would hold up. Over his last six starts against the Nationals, he is now 6-0 with an 0.97 ERA.

"When he's on like that, you better get lucky," said Harper, now 1-for-9 with six strikeouts (and a homer) in his career vs. Kershaw. "He's pretty impressive. We've just got to tip our cap to Clayton today and hopefully go over and get Greinke tomorrow and see where we're at by the [end of the] weekend."

MORE NATIONALS: Espinosa leaves game with leg cramps

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.


Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.


Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

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Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.