LOS ANGELES -- The Nationals entered Friday night's marquee matchup with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw looking to be aggressive at the plate. Three pitches in, they put a run on the board to back Max Scherzer and helped give them an early edge in a 5-2 victory.
Trea Turner began the game with a double on Kershaw's first pitch. Howie Kendrick flied out to center field on the next pitch, advancing Turner to third. Then, with the infield drawn in, Bryce Harper roped a single into right field on the third pitch for his 19th RBI of the season.
After a wild pitch put Harper on second, Ryan Zimmerman doubled him home to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead.
"There's really no choice," Zimmerman said. "He's going to come right at you. You're not going to get his pitch count up. He doesn't walk a ton of people. Might as well be ready to try to hit the first pitch you can. The deeper into the at-bat you go with him, the harder it gets, especially if he can get ahead of you. It worked out good tonight. But he's still pretty good."
Turner's double was a 112.3-mph rope into the left-field corner. It's the hardest extra-base hit of Turner's career and the hardest extra-base hit Kershaw has surrendered since Statcast™ began tracking that data in 2015.
Harper entered the game 2-for-23 in his career against Kershaw, with 14 strikeouts and a home run. And their aggressive approach against Kershaw paid off early.
"I usually expect that with every team; sometimes they foul it off, sometimes they don't," Kershaw said. "I've got to make a better pitch to Zimmerman and get out with one run."
It appeared as if the Dodgers carried the same game plan to begin the bottom of the first against Scherzer when Chris Taylor hammered a triple off the wall in right-center field on the first pitch. Scherzer's second pitch hit Corey Seager, and the Dodgers looked poised to cut into the Nationals' lead. But Scherzer induced an infield popup from Yasmani Grandal before striking out Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson to escape the jam.
That was the difference in the game as Scherzer was able to work his way out of jams that Kershaw could not escape. The Nationals executed their aggressive gameplan perfectly, and it was the key to their victory Friday night.
"We wanted to go in there and attack [Kershaw] early," manager Dave Martinez said. "Get the ball in the strike zone and be ready to hit it. And the boys went up there and did that."