GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Only 20 minutes following a rousing win in the completion of Friday night's suspended game, the Nationals took the field full of pep and positive vibes. And then a left-hander named Clayton Kershaw sucked all the life out of them over the next 2 1/2 hours.
The Dodgers ace, 3-time Cy Young Award winner and reigning NL MVP was every bit as good as advertised, shutting out the Nationals over eight brilliant innings. Kershaw struck out 14 (most-ever by an opposing pitcher against the Nats since the franchise arrived in town in 2005), didn't walk a batter and was in complete control from the moment he took the mound on a sweltering Saturday afternoon.
Doug Fister wasn't nearly as effective, escaping major damage early but then succumbing to the L.A. lineup during a 3-run fifth that ended his day. The score remained 4-0 into the ninth, when the Nationals finally got on the board, thanks to Bryce Harper's towering homer off Kenley Jansen. That's all they could muster, though, so the Nats were left to split this sort-of doubleheader, enjoying their dramatic Friday night/Saturday afternoon victory but left to stew over their loss in the nightcap to one of the game's best pitchers.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: Look, Kershaw can make anybody look awful on any given day he takes the mound, but he certainly owned Harper on Saturday unlike any other pitcher has this season. Harper struck out three times against the lefty, all three swinging. That leaves him 1-for-9 with six strikeouts in his career vs. Kershaw. Though, in his defense, the one hit was a home run at Dodger Stadium last fall. And that second-deck blast off Jansen in the ninth certainly helped make this day sting a little less.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Though he made it through his first four innings allowing only one run, Fister seemed to be teetering on the brink of disaster all afternoon. The Dodgers were hitting ropes off him from the beginning, including three flyballs to the warning track that resulted in outs. Eventually, that had to catch up to him. And sure enough, it did in the top of the fifth. Fister gave up three more runs on a flurry of base hits, ultimately departing having allowed four runs on nine hits in only five innings. He continues to struggle finding a level of consistency this season.
INJURY UPDATE: Second baseman Danny Espinosa left the game in the top of the ninth after appearing to injure his left leg trying to make a diving stop of a base hit to his left. Espinosa walked off the field under his own power but was very careful not to put much weight on the injured leg.
KEY STAT: In his last six starts against the Nationals, Kershaw is now 6-0 with an 0.97 ERA.
UP NEXT: The series concludes at 1:35 p.m. Sunday with one of the best pitching matchups of the season. It's a pair of Cy Young Award contenders taking the mound, with Max Scherzer (10-7, 2.11) vs. Zack Greinke (8-2, 1.39).