10:10 PM EST, Line: Los Angeles -183
After a spirited opener to this three-game set, the Los Angeles Dodgers look strike back as they host the Washington Nationals tonight as Chavez Ravine. For the National League-leading Nationals (78-58), a win tonight would mark their first road series victory at Los Angeles since arriving in the Nation’s Capital. Monday Night’s 6-4 win further extended their lead over the Braves in the National League East to a comfortable seven games, as Matt Williams’ crew has now taken three out of their last four outings. However, earning another should prove to be particularly difficult as Los Angeles sends two-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to the mound tonight.
Monday Night, Washington continued to exude their power at the plate smashing another four home runs, bringing their total since the start of August to a Major League-leading 44. Jayson Werth (16), Asdrubal Cabrera (4), and Denard Span (3,4) each went yard, with the latter two rounding the bases in the 3rd Inning alone. Starting Pitcher Gio Gonzalez (7-9, 3.89 ERA) broke out of a five-game funk, yielding three runs on three hits over six innings, striking out four while walking a pair. The victory was the lefty’s first since July 5th. Rafael Soriano struggled a bit to close the deal in the 9th, allowing a series of dribbling singles which cut the lead to two runs, but was finally able to retire Joc Pederson for his 31st save of the campaign. Taking the mound tonight will be Doug Fister (12-5, 2.55 ERA), who like his teammate is also looking to break out of a malaise. The right-hander has dropped each of his past two starts, most recently a five-run, ten-hit performance over 5.1 innings in an 8-4 loss to Philadelphia last Wednesday. Furthermore, he has allowed two homers in each of his last two starts, which must be of concern to Williams this time of year; prior to his past two starts, Fister was 12-2 with a 1.89 ERA in his first seventeen starts. Perhaps it’s just a sign of fatigue, but his progress warrants monitoring heading into the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers (77-61) find themselves in a bit of a precarious position. With Monday’s loss they now trail the Nationals by two games for the best record in the National League, but also saw their lead over the Giants in the National League West shrink to just a pair of games. While home field advantage is indeed within their grasp, Don Mattingly’s club could ill afford a string of poor performances for they are just as close to falling into one of the two Wild Cards. And that is precisely where Los Angeles find themselves; losers of three out of their past four outings, this team must find a way to right the ship, otherwise heads will likely roll.
As has often been the case, the Dodgers’ offense wasn’t particularly productive in Monday’s 6-4 loss at home to the Nationals. The Batting Order managed just six hits, including a Matt Kemp homer (17) in the 1st Inning, before Juan Uribe made things interesting with a a pair of RBI singles in the 7th and 9th Innings. With that said, Roberto Hernandez’s meltdown on the mound was most jarring for Mattingly. Hernandez (8-10, 4.00 ERA) was acquired at the Trade Deadline to further bolster the rotation, but wound up giving up four home runs in 4.1 innings of work, which was particularly disappointing given how well he had pitched against the Nationals this season. A quartet of relievers came in to play damage control but at the point the game was pretty much decided. Fortunately for Mattingly, it’s highly unlikely that tonight’s starter, Clayton Kershaw will allow four home runs. Kershaw (16-3, 1.73 ERA) has once again been nothing short of dominant this season, earning a 13-1 record with a 1.21 ERA in his last sixteen starts. In his only start against Washington this season, he was far from perfect, yet he was stellar nonetheless; the lefty allowed nine hits but also struck out nine Nationals without yielding a single run in 7.0 innings of an 8-3 victory back on May 6th.