WASHINGTON -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had said what he feared most from the Washington Nationals was their "slug," but it was early-inning long balls by the Dodgers that helped overcome Clayton Kershaw's command issues for a 4-3 win in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Friday night. Game 2 is Saturday at 4 p.m. ET/1 PT on FS1.
In losing to the hard-throwing Mets in last year's NLDS, the Dodgers hit only two home runs in five games. But they matched that in three innings against 20-game winner Max Scherzer, with a solo shot to center field by Corey Seager in the first inning and a two-run blast into the team's left-field bullpen by Justin Turner one at-bat after he was hit by a Scherzer slider on the left hand.
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"It was just a fastball up over the plate," said Seager, who became the youngest Dodger in history to hit a postseason home run. "I put a good swing and got some good results. We were looking for any runs we could get off of him. That's an elite pitcher. He came ready to play, he threw well. We just scratched as many as we could."
Turner said there wasn't a specific game plan for attacking Scherzer, so he came up with one after talking during pre-game warm-ups to Chase Utley, who singled home the other Dodgers run.
"I asked Chase," Turner said. "I go, 'Hey, what are you thinking for tonight? Are we going to be aggressive?' He's been our tone-setter all year, and he says, 'I'm not going to swing at the first pitch if that's what you're asking, but if I get to 1-0, I'm going to be aggressive.' And then Corey goes out there, jumps all over the first pitch and hits a homer, and I think that kind of set the tone for us.
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"I went out my next at-bat, got a first-pitch fastball and was aggressive to it. And I think the first time through the lineup as a team, we were pretty aggressive and that kind of affected the way Max pitched to us. The second time through, he went through all the secondary stuff even more than we saw him do on tape. That's what you have to do, you have to make adjustments on the fly and see what other teams are doing and attacking and you have to try to make adjustments with them."
Said Scherzer: "I made some mistakes, and they cost me. Giving up those two home runs, I really feel like that was the difference in the ballgame. I take ownership of that, and I'm accountable for that."
Roberts, the rookie manager running his first postseason game, said the early lead allowed him to manipulate his bullpen with match-ups later, using set-up man Joe Blanton earlier than usual in the sixth inning and getting a five-out save from closer Kenley Jansen.
"You know, when you get a lead, it's a lot easier to try to shorten the game," said Roberts. "But when you're on the road trying to play catch-up, it just changes the way you manage and you start to press a little bit.
The home runs and the victory torpedoed concern about the Dodgers' lack of momentum coming into the series after losing five of the last six games of the regular season. They are 6-1 against the Nationals this year and 3-1 at Nats Park. And they did this one with their ace struggling, although he at least kept the ball in the park, which Scherzer didn't.
"If he gets settled in, it might be a tough night," Kershaw said of his opposing starter. "So, for Corey just to take that swing -- really the guys on the top of the order -- him and JT -- were really swinging the bats. Tolesy (Andrew Toles) did a great job. It was definitely a team effort, and it was fun to watch."