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Scherzer on facing Kershaw in Game 1: 'This is what you play the game for'

Scherzer on facing Kershaw in Game 1: 'This is what you play the game for'

For as dominant as Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw have been in their respective careers, baseball fans have yet to be treated to a high-stakes duel between the two at the height of their abilities.

In fact, the only time these hurlers started against each other was back in September of 2008 as rookies. In other words, before the Cy Young Awards, All-Star Game appearances, strikeout titles and, in Kershaw’s case, a National League MVP.

That all changes in Game 1 of the NL Division Series. Scherzer and Kershaw, picked five selections apart in the first round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, will finally square off again, this time as two unquestioned aces pitching during the time of the year it matters most.  

“It's what you play this game for,” Scherzer said. “You don't measure yourself against the worst; you measure yourself against the best. And I think this is best opponent I could possibly face with the Dodgers and Kershaw throwing.”

“I don't expect for it to be a blowout tomorrow by any means,” Kershaw added.

Look around the playoff field, and it would be tough to find a more compelling pitching matchup than this one. So on the eve of their biggest [duel] to date, both Game 1 starters took turns singing each other’s praises.

“Just a great competitor,” Kershaw said of his Nationals counterpart. “He had an amazing year this year. You know, if not the frontrunner to win the Cy Young, definitely in the top two or three. We know we've got our hands full.”

Indeed, Scherzer is coming off another Cy Young-caliber campaign, going 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA and an MLB-best 284 strikeouts. In his second season with the Nats, the 32-year-old right hander has proven to be the top-line starter the club needed when he signed a seven-year, $210 million contract before the 2015 season.

“It's what I envisioned when I drafted him way back in the day,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo said. “He attacks. He's in attack mode. He's an aggressive pitcher. He's the guy that you want to give the ball to in the most crucial situations.”

Kershaw, meanwhile, was off to another historically great start before missing a large chunk of the year with a back injury. The 28-year-old lefty returned in September in time to make five starts, regaining his strength and finishing the regular season 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA and an impressive 172-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  

“You have go to up there and be ready to hit because you know he's not going to walk you,” first baseman Clint Robinson said. “You have to go up there and don't let him get away with mistakes. If he makes a mistake pitch, you have to be ready to get all over him and do damage. Because if not, the man has proven over the years to that if he's on, you're not going to hit him.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts put it in more simple terms. 

“I'd rather have nobody on the mound tomorrow than Clayton Kershaw,” he said.

Of course, the unpredictability of the postseason is always in play, so there’s a chance the low-scoring affair many expect may not come to fruition. Regardless, pitching matchups rarely get more hyped than this, and the Nats believe they have their man that can lead them deep into October against the opposition’s best.  

“This is something you always remember,” Scherzer said. “You want to be in these situations, because this is too much fun, to be able to go up and face a team and pitcher of this caliber.”

[MORE: NATIONALS ANNOUNCE PLAYOFF ROSTER FOR NLDS VS. DODGERS]

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On this date: The Nationals played their first game ever

On this date: The Nationals played their first game ever

It seems like eons ago that the Washington Nationals played in their first game after departing from Montreal.

Saturday marks the 15th anniversary of their inaugural game as they brought professional baseball back to the District of Columbia.

The Nationals opened up the 2005 season on the road at Citizens Bank Park with a matchup against their future rival in the Phillies.

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The game didn't go as planned for Nats manager Frank Robinson, with his squad dropping the first game of their 162-game slate with a defeat, but it was a return to normalcy for baseball fans in the nation's capital who had longed for a team to root for since the Senators left town 34 years prior.

The Phillies beat the Nats 8-4 on Opening Day, but for fans in the District, there was now a team to cheer on when they returned home a few days later for the home opener at RFK Stadium.

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Nats GM Mike Rizzo displays Commissioner's Trophy in neighborhood during quarantine

Nats GM Mike Rizzo displays Commissioner's Trophy in neighborhood during quarantine

Now this is the type of content we love to see. 

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo found a pretty cool yet responsible way to bring some cheer to his neighborhood in the midst of social distancing on Thursday. 

On the day that should have been the Nats’ 2020 home opener Washington’s GM Mike Rizzo displayed the World Series trophy in the window of his home in Navy Yard.

According to The Washington Post’s reporter Barry Svrluga, Rizzo’s gesture was “in honor of Opening Day!” 

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Of course, fans loved this idea. I mean who wouldn’t? 

Fans passing by even stopped to take a picture with the trophy. 

Although we were all thrilled to return to Nationals Park to celebrate the defending World Champions, Rizzo’s trophy display was a way to spread some joy until we can reunite again. 

On a recent conference call Rizzo told reporters, “This is going to be a very, very special Opening Day for us when it happens, so we still have that to look forward to... On the brighter side, the glass half full view is that we’re the reigning world champions and we still are clutching hard to that trophy. We’ve got ourselves a banner-raising ceremony coming, we’ve got ourselves some beautiful rings that we’re going to be able to wear around D.C. in the very near future, so although we’re thinking daily and hourly about the humanity of what’s going on right now, we also have that to look forward to when we get through this thing and we come out the other side and baseball begins again.”

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