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Nationals can only offer kudos to Kershaw

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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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Donaldson's 9th-inning single lifts Braves over Nats 4-3 despite Robles' heroics

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Donaldson's 9th-inning single lifts Braves over Nats 4-3 despite Robles' heroics

Donaldson's 9th-inning single lifts Braves over Nats 4-3

ATLANTA -- Josh Donaldson's bases-loaded single off Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning lifted the Atlanta Braves over the Washington Nationals 4-3 on Friday night after Luke Jackson allowed a tying, two-run homer to Victor Robles in the top half.

Ronald Acuna Jr., who had three hits, led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk off Rodney (0-3) and took second on Dansby Swanson's single. Freddie Freeman walked on four pitches, loading the bases.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez brought in left fielder Juan Soto as a fifth infielder, including three on the left side against the right-handed hitting Donaldson.

Donaldson hit a 2-0 pitch over Robles to center-field warning track, and the Braves boosted their NL East lead to 6 games over the second-place Nationals. Atlanta had lost its previous five home games against Washington.

Robles' homer went 446 feet to left, giving Jackson his seventh blown save in 24 chances.

Julio Teheran gave up one hit through five scoreless innings and retired 14 consecutive hitters before pinch-hitter Gerardo Parra singled with one out in the sixth. Anthony Rendon chased Teheran with a two-out RBI single.

Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin couldn't win on his 30th birthday while paired with catcher Yan Gomes, who turned 32. Corbin and Gomes became only the second pitcher-catcher tandem to start together on their birthdays since 1900, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Chicago Cubs pitcher Dave Hillman and catcher Jim Fanning did it against Pittsburgh on Sept. 14, 1957.

Corbin allowed two runs and eight hits in five innings. He struck out Ozzie Albies with the bases loaded in the first and fanned Albies to end the fifth with two out.

Albies hit a two-out double in the fourth and scored on Austin Riley's double. Freeman was 2 for 20 in his career against Corbin before his RBI single in the fifth.

Acuna's RBI double against Tanner Rainey gave the Braves a 3-1 lead.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer, on the 10-day IL since July 10 with an injury originally announced as a mid-back strain, was given a cortisone shot on Tuesday to address inflammation in the bursa sac under his right shoulder blade. Scherzer still has some discomfort and must throw a bullpen session before cleared to pitch in a game. With Scherzer unavailable, RHP Austin Voth is expected to start in Sunday night's series finale.

Braves: RHP Patrick Weigel, who had Tommy John surgery in 2017, was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to make his major league debut Saturday. RHP Wes Parsons also was recalled from Gwinnett. RHPs Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint were optioned to Gwinnett.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Anibal Sanchez (5-6, 3.71) is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts this season against the Braves, his former team.

Braves: Rookie RHP Mike Soroka (10-1, 2.24) will try to win his sixth straight decision on Saturday night. The 21-year-old right-hander became the youngest pitcher in franchise history to be selected an All-Star.

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Nationals to introduce 'Kids Eat Free' program for the rest of the summer

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Nationals to introduce 'Kids Eat Free' program for the rest of the summer

What's better than spending a summer evening at a baseball game? Spending a summer evening at a baseball game and getting free food, that's what!

From July 22 to September 2, the Nationals are introducing a "Kids Eat Free" program, allowing any member of the Jr. Nats Kids Club age 12 or under to get a free meal at a Nats home game.

The meal includes a hot dog, the choice of chips or applesauce, and a soda or bottled water. According to the Nats, the meal is a $17 value. 

“We’re trying to find ways to make our experience as family-friendly as possible,” Nationals EVP of business operations Jake Burns told Front Office Sports. “This idea was borne out of brainstorming of things we could do to get families in the door or provide a better experience to existing families, and we found a way to attract new fans to the ballpark and strengthen the relationship with those existing fans.” 

Take your kids out to the ballpark, folks. You get to introduce them to America's pastime and save some money!

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