Irvin stops Dodgers cold to cap Nats' winning road trip

April 17th, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- The Nationals have a cavalcade of young standouts who the club is hoping will lead them through their rebuild and back to playoff contention.

Increasingly, is showing he merits inclusion in that group.

Irvin pitched six scoreless innings to shut down the fearsome Dodgers lineup and lift the Nationals to a 2-0 victory at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. Behind Irvin, the Nationals claimed the series and finished their nine-game road trip with a 5-4 record. It was the first time the Dodgers have been shut out this season.

“They're really good hitters and a really good lineup,” Irvin said. “But at the end of the day, they’ve got to put the ball in play. The thought was just to go into attack mode. Don't give them anything free and make them earn it.”

The 27-year-old right-hander limited the Dodgers to four hits, walked one and struck out six. He needed just 73 pitches to maneuver through the loaded Dodgers lineup and allowed a runner past second base just twice. It was Irvin’s second straight excellent start after he held Oakland to one hit and one run over six innings on Friday.

“He's been unbelievable,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who earned his 400th career win as a manager. “He really has. He's been outstanding, actually. He just keeps getting better and better. The confidence keeps growing. He gives us the innings we need.”

The Nationals gave Irvin all the run support he needed in the first inning. CJ Abrams led off with a home run on the second pitch of the game to give the Nationals an immediate lead. Jesse Winker and Luis García Jr. added hard singles before Joey Meneses lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to make it 2-0 Nationals just five batters into the game.

Irvin took it from there. With an array of 94-97 mph fastballs and well-timed curveballs, sinkers and cutters, he worked quickly through the Dodgers’ order and prevented them from ever staging a serious threat. He worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the first and never again allowed the Dodgers to string together multiple baserunners in an inning.

“I've talked about just kind of competing over the plate, and that was the goal today,” Irvin said. “It was just to compete over the plate. I can't create swing and miss; it just happens. So do my job, compete over the plate and let the rest work out.”

Irvin finished his day in style, blowing an elevated 94.8 mph fastball past Will Smith for a swinging strikeout to end the sixth.

“We had a really big conversation after the sixth inning,” Martinez said. “I really felt like he let it air out there that last inning. We talked a little bit and we had a fresh bullpen, so we decided to go with the bullpen. But I can't say enough about what he's done so far.”

While Irvin starred on the mound, García led the way among the position players. Another of the Nationals’ young talents, the 23-year-old second baseman had a single, a walk, two stolen bases and a trio of diving stops on defense.

García made a diving play to his left to rob Freddie Freeman of a single in the third inning and a diving stop to his right to steal a hit from Gavin Lux in the fifth. His biggest play came in the eighth, when he dove to stab a ground ball into short right field and made a perfect throw to first to rob Freeman of a potential RBI single and end the inning.

“He played unbelievable defense today,” Martinez said. “He really did. You know he's got it in him. We've always said that. It's about consistency with him. But he's been playing really well. I'm proud of him.”

Robert Garcia, Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan finished it off with three innings of relief to wrap up a five-hit shutout. It was the Nationals’ first shutout of the season, and, with Irvin leading the way, came against a club that ranked second in the Majors in scoring entering the day.

“To hold the Dodgers to zero runs is not an easy thing to do, so shout out to him,” Abrams said. “Great game and good series win.”