LOS ANGELES -- The pitching matchup the night before garnered all the headlines, but Stephen Strasburg and Hyun-Jin Ryu put on their own duel on Saturday night.Their low-scoring, tightly contested battle in front of 50,908 at Dodger Stadium continued what could be a postseason preview during this three-game series between
LOS ANGELES -- The pitching matchup the night before garnered all the headlines, but Stephen Strasburg and Hyun-Jin Ryu put on their own duel on Saturday night.
Their low-scoring, tightly contested battle in front of 50,908 at Dodger Stadium continued what could be a postseason preview during this three-game series between two National League favorites. On Saturday, Ryu outpitched Strasburg as the Dodgers hammered three home runs to even the series with a 4-0 victory.
Los Angeles pitchers retired 19 of the final 20 batters, including a scoreless ninth from Kenley Jansen, as Washington was shut out for the first time this season.
"Definitely an intriguing matchup against Strasburg, one of the best righties in the National League," Ryu said through an interpreter. "It definitely helped me focus more. I don't want to say it kind of got to me, but most definitely I was thinking about the matchup and pitching well enough to give the team a chance to win."
And Ryu did more than that. He flummoxed the Nationals through seven scoreless innings, holding them to two hits and three walks, while striking out eight. He painted his changeup on the corner of the strike zone to generate called strikes and moved it just from the reach of opposing hitters who swung away. He retired 13 straight from the end of the third inning until he walked off the mound after seven.
"I think he just does everything," Nats shortstop Trea Turner said. "He goes in, out, up, down. His four pitches he throws constantly. There's not something he sits on or really goes to, which I think makes it tough to kind of gameplan. He pitched really, really well tonight."
Strasburg's night did not go as smoothly, but he turned in a dominant effort nonetheless. He struck out 10 for the first time this season, going seven innings and dialing up his fastball into the high 90s when he needed it. But the Dodgers tagged him for a pair of solo home runs -- Joc Pederson's one-out homer in the second inning and Kiké Hernandez's pinch-hit homer in the seventh.
Even when Strasburg worked himself into trouble, he had an extra gear to get out of it. The Dodgers loaded the bases to start the sixth inning before Strasburg struck out the next three batters -- with an 88-mph changeup to Cody Bellinger, a 97-mph fastball to Pederson and a 98-mph fastball against Matt Kemp -- to escape the jam.
"You get into situations like that," Strasburg said. "You've got to just challenge them."
The Nats could not mount any sort of offense to support Strasburg's dominance, as they were held hitless over the final six innings. So when Bellinger added a two-run home run in the eighth against Carlos Torres, it put the game out of reach.
The Nationals are still without three of their best hitters -- including third baseman Anthony Rendon, who is not on the disabled list but missed a seventh consecutive game after fouling a ball off his left big toe. Prior to the game, manager Dave Martinez was hopeful Rendon would be available to pinch-hit Saturday, but Rendon felt sore after working out prior to the game, so Martinez saved him only for a chance to tie the game.
Even with a depleted lineup, the Nationals' offense has started to come alive a bit. Ryu got the best of them Saturday, but the bats are making some positive strides.
"I think, with our lineup, I feel like we're never out of it," Turner said. "We just have to battle and grind. They have a good bullpen, though, so it's not going to be easy. But we'll try to win this series tomorrow."
The Nationals wrap up this three-game set at 8 ET on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Jeremy Hellickson will be looking to build on his first start with the club, when he threw 4 2/3 innings in his 2018 debut against the Mets. The Dodgers will counter with lefty Alex Wood.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.