WASHINGTON -- One swing from Ryan Zimmerman provided the Nationals with more offense Sunday night than they had through the first two games of this series with the Dodgers, as he launched a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning of a 7-1 victory Sunday night at Nationals Park.
Zimmerman added a solo shot in the eighth, his career-high-tying 33rd homer, as the Nats denied the Dodgers a three-game sweep in a potential National League Championship Series preview between the NL's top two teams, who split the season series, 3-3.
"You certainly didn't want them to come in our house and sweep us," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "Just like they don't want us to come in their house and sweep them. That was the real significance, is that we won the ballgame and ended up 3-3 on the year with them."
For Washington, the club won with the formula it plans to use in the postseason. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg had his scoreless innings streak snapped at 35, but he spun six innings of one-run ball before the Nats turned it over to their "big three" in the bullpen, using a scoreless inning each from Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to preserve the victory.
The Dodgers' magic number to clinch the NL West remains at four despite a solid effort from left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who didn't allow a run but ran out of gas when he issued back-to-back walks to Strasburg (nine pitches) and Trea Turner with two outs in the fifth. With Ryu at 98 pitches and leading, 1-0, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought in Thomas Stripling and Ryu later said he was frustrated not to have finished the inning, which would have qualified him for the win.
"I thought he was good all night long," Roberts said of Ryu. "The Strasburg at-bat got him. Until the pitcher's spot, I thought he was great."
All of Washington's runs came off three Dodgers relievers hopeful of making the postseason roster. Stripling, who escaped Ryu's fifth-inning jam, allowed Zimmerman's three-run blast. Fireballing rookie Walker Buehler gave up a two-out RBI double to Anthony Rendon in the seventh. Josh Ravin served up homers to Zimmerman and pinch-hitter Adam Lind in the eighth.
"Obviously, it's in the back of your mind, you can't say it's not," Stripling said of upcoming roster decisions. "You don't think that if I make this pitch, I make the postseason roster. But after the fact, you bring it up, it creeps in your mind. We've got a lot of talented righties, all pretty similar and trying to make the postseason roster and help the team win. It's something you can look back and whether you make it or not, it could affect their decision."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Streak snapped: The Dodgers became the first team to score a run off Strasburg in 35 innings in the second. Yasiel Puig singled, stole his career-high 15th base and scored on a two-out double from John Forsythe that was nearly caught in center field by Michael A. Taylor, who tracked down the ball, but couldn't hold on to it. He had a 65 percent catch probability and it would have been a 3-Star play, as rated by Statcast™. Taylor had been 9-for-9 on such plays. Strasburg's scoreless innings streak was the longest in franchise history.
"I didn't think he was going to catch it. I didn't think it was going to stay in the yard," Strasburg said. "I don't think there's too many outfielders in the game that will actually get to that ball to begin with. So I think you can just appreciate that, just for how talented he is. To actually get there and have a chance at it is pretty incredible."
Zim ties career high in HRs: With one swing, Zimmerman gave the Nationals more offense than they previously had all weekend. He hammered a three-run homer off Stripling to give Washington its first lead in the series. As he rounded the bases, Zimmerman let out a scream as the Nats' offense finally broke through.
"It's been a tough series," he said. "We haven't scored many runs -- in the last week we haven't scored many runs. I think it was just a frustration for us offensively because the pitchers have actually been throwing the ball well and we haven't helped them out. So it's kind of a relief to get a big hit, to get us going, and to score some runs. But, yeah, a lot more of emotion than I usually show for a September game."
In the eighth, Zimmerman added his 33rd homer, a solo shot, to match his career high from 2009. It continued what has been a remarkable turnaround for the veteran after a tough '16 season.
"There were people telling me to bench him and stuff, and I knew this guy was a long ways from through," Baker said. "He had some good years ahead of him. Couldn't happen to a finer guy. He doesn't alibi or complain or anything. He just plays ball."
"When the ball is up in the zone, that's his nitro zone, and that's what he did a couple of times tonight." -- Roberts, on Zimmerman's homers
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
While Ryu is 2-1 with a 2.36 ERA in nine starts since the All-Star break, he has thrown five innings or fewer in 11 of 22 starts. Roberts, however, said that doesn't mean Ryu can't be an asset in the postseason.
"For him to get 15, 17 outs, that's fair to ask," Roberts said. "That's very productive and can help you win a playoff game. The last seven or eight starts, he's done everything we've asked."
With his pinch-hit two-run shot in the eighth, Lind is the Nats' record holder for pinch-hit homers in a season and a career with four.
"I just know it's nice to help the team win games," Lind said. "I don't think there is a secret. I'm just trying to have a good at-bat."
The Nationals thought they had the lead in the fifth, when Jayson Werth lined a ball down the left-field line for what looked like a two-run double. The ball was initially ruled foul, prompting the Nats to challenge the call. However, the call on the field stood. Werth ended up flying out to center to end the threat.
Dodgers: Ace Clayton Kershaw, who beat the Giants last week to stop the club's 11-game losing streak, starts Monday's 4:05 p.m. PT series opener against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Kershaw is 3-4 with a 2.92 ERA against the Phils and hasn't faced them since a 13-strikeout shutout July 8, 2015.
Nationals: Following an off-day Monday, the Nationals begin a three-city, nine-game road trip in Atlanta on Tuesday at 7:35 p.m. ET. Max Scherzer will take the mound for his first start since giving up seven runs in six innings last week against the Braves.
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