WASHINGTON – For a guy whose teams kept losing in the postseason, Max Scherzer sure is delivering now. Every time he's pitched this October, the Washington Nationals have won.
His latest outing was a season-saving, seven-inning masterpiece that combined with Ryan Zimmerman's three-run homer to lift the wild-card Nationals to a 6-1 victory over the league-best Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night, forcing a deciding Game 5 in their NL Division Series.
Scowling and muttering to himself, Scherzer gave up one run and four hits while striking out nine – and, most importantly for Washington, he prevented LA from closing out the NLDS after taking a 2-1 lead into Game 4.
With fans who braved some rain chanting, “Beat LA!” in the late going, Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson combined to get the last six outs for Washington, setting up a winner-take-all contest in the best-of-five series Wednesday at Los Angeles, with the Nationals sending Stephen Strasburg to the mound against Walker Buehler.
Whichever team advances will face the Atlanta Braves or St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series. That series is also even at 2-all.
Zimmerman, 35, showed what he still can do at the plate by taking a 97 mph pitch, the second thrown by reliever Pedro Báez, and turning it into a high-arching parabola that descended onto the green batter's eye in straightaway center field for a three-run shot that made it 5-1.
That was after Julio Urías, LA's third pitcher and the one charged with the loss, began the fifth by serving up a line-drive single to Trea Turner, who finished with three hits. Anthony Rendon, who led the majors with 126 RBI during the regular season but entered Monday with just one in the playoffs, then delivered a run-scoring single that made it 2-1.
Rendon also brought home runs via sacrifice flies in the third and sixth.
It was plenty for Scherzer. He left after 109 pitches, the most stressful coming after he loaded the bases by walking two hitters with one out in the seventh. Scherzer got out of that by striking out pinch-hitter Chris Taylor and getting Joc Pederson to ground out, then shook his arms and yelled as he stalked to the home dugout.
The Dodgers' lone run came when Justin Turner connected for a no-doubt-about-it homer to left on Scherzer's 10th pitch, a 95 mph fastball. But from there, facing an LA lineup stacked with a half-dozen lefty hitters, Scherzer displayed the sort of ornery dominance that helped him win three Cy Young Awards.