Jul 19, 2015, 4:49 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: It was billed as a pitchers duel between the two best starters in baseball so far this season and it sure didn’t disappoint.
Both Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke were dominant on Sunday afternoon, but it was the Nats’ star right-hander who blinked first. Scherzer allowed Andre Ethier to score on a wild pitch in the fourth inning and that was all Greinke and the Dodgers would need on a sweltering day on South Capitol Street.
Greinke was a force all afternoon with a fastball that sat consistently around 94 miles per hour, up from his 91.3 average this season. He was also pinpoint accurate with several strikeouts secured on fastballs that just caught the outside edge of the plate. The Nats whiffed 11 total times against the former Cy Young-winner.
Scherzer escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning to put in a solid start overall. He did, however, allow his first walk in 39 2/3 innings, a streak that dated back to June 18.
The Nationals fell 5-0 to drop their first series of the second half and are now 49-41 on the season. They have lost five of their last eight overall.
The Nationals and Dodgers drew over 40,000 fans in each game during this series with 40,293 for the finale. Many of the fans were donned in costumes for Star Wars Day.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: It’s tough to fault a depleted Nationals’ lineup going up against Greinke, who finished the first half of the season with a 1.39 ERA to lead the majors and entered the day with 35 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. But they couldn’t get much of anything going against the dominant right-hander, who continued tossing up zeros and playing mind tricks with a diverse arsenal of plus-pitches.
Greinke finished with eight scoreless innings and just three hits and a walk allowed. He struck out a season-high 11 strikeouts. Few Nats were able to get hard contact on any of his pitches, with only Yunel Escobar, Michael Taylor and Clint Robinson registering hits, all of which were singles.
Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond went hitless once again. Ramos hasn’t recorded a hit in 12 consecutive at-bats and Desmond hasn’t landed one in 16 straight.
Greinke extended his scoreless innings streak to 43 2/3, the longest for any pitcher since Orel Hershiser (then with the Dodgers) who tossed 59 straight without allowing a run in 1988. Greinke just the third pitcher since 1900 to throw six straight scoreless starts in a single season.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Though Scherzer took the loss, he turned in another excellent outing overall. The right-hander tossed six innings with a solo run allowed on seven hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. The only run he allowed came on a wild pitch with Alberto Callaspo at the plate. It scored Ethier from third, as Ramos’ throw to Scherzer at home sailed wide.
It amounts to a tough-luck loss for Scherzer, who is now 10-8 on the season. He lowered his ERA to 2.09 and moved to 138 innings pitched on the season. Opponents are hitting just .189 against him and his WHIP stands at 0.80. Somehow he has lost eight games, which gives credence to those who decry citing win-loss records when comparing pitchers.
Scherzer was replaced by wookiee – ahem, rookie – Felipe Rivero, who recorded two outs in the seventh. Aaron Barrett, Casey Janssen, Blake Treinen and Sammy Solis also pitched for the Nats. Treinen allowed the Dodgers’ other four runs on singles by Ethier, A.J. Ellis and Yasiel Puig in the top of the ninth.
KEY STAT: Greinke and Clayton Kershaw have combined to throw 63 2/3 straight scoreless innings, the equivalent of more than seven full games. They put up nearly clone efforts this weekend to combine for this line: 16 IP, 6 H, 0 R, BB, 25 SO.
UP NEXT: The Nationals continue their homesetand with a series against the NL East rival New York Mets. It won’t get any easier for the Nats’ lineup as the Mets have their menacing trio of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard scheduled to start the three games.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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