Nationals can’t back up Strasburg, stifled by Kershaw and Dodgers
LOS ANGELES | Clayton Kershaw made it sound as if he had a rough day. It looked pretty good to everyone else.
Kershaw outdueled Stephen Strasburg with seven effective innings and Yasmani Grandal hit a tiebreaking RBI double, helping the Los Angeles Dodgers edge the Washington Nationals 2-1 on Wednesday.
Kershaw (8-2) allowed three hits and struck out nine in his first win since May 17. Pedro Baez got two outs before Kenley Jansen finished for his 10th save.
But Kershaw also walked three and said he was not particularly sharp.
“I didn’t have much today in the tank,” he said. “I felt fine, it just wasn’t coming out quite the way I wanted to today. I felt like I threw a lot of off-speed pitches. That’s good lineup, too. They have a really good team over there. I’m fortunate to get a win.”
Strasburg (7-2) struck out eight in six innings in his first loss since April 29. The ace right-hander was 5-0 with a 2.75 ERA in his previous six starts.
Ryan Zimmerman hit his 17th homer for Washington in the second, and Strasburg sailed into the sixth inning before running into trouble.
“I don’t think we were giving at-bats away,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I think Stephen was good today. He elevated his game.”
Roberts said one of Kershaw’s biggest contributions came at the plate when he forced Strasburg to throw nine pitches before grounding out in the sixth. Chris Taylor followed with another eightpitch at-bat that ended with another groundout.
“That was huge,” Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager said. “(Kershaw) got his pitch count up a little bit and then (Taylor) did the same thing. It’s hard to throw when you have those long innings like that. Eventually you’ll make a mistake.”
Seager connected on one, hitting a drive to center for his eighth homer. Strasburg came back to strike out Adrian Gonzalez, but strike three got by catcher Jose Lobaton and Gonzalez reached on the passed ball.
After Gonzalez advanced on a wild pitch, Grandal lined a double past diving left fielder Ryan Raburn for a 2-1 lead.
“When you’re playing close games like that against a great pitcher — two great pitchers — there’s usually a mistake
here, a mistake that’s the difference in the game,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.
In a rematch of last year’s NL Division Series, won by Los Angeles in five games, the NL-leading Nationals took two of three from the Dodgers.
“We feel pretty good,” Baker said. “We certainly would have wanted this one. But they’re tough to sweep here.”
The Nationals had a chance to tie it in the eighth, but the Dodgers wiggled out of the jam.
Trea Turner led off with a triple off the center-field wall. But Rayburn struck out and Baez snagged a hot comebacker from Bryce Harper to catch Turner in a rundown. Jansen then retired Zimmerman on another comebacker.
It was Jansen’s fifth four-plus out save of the year.
“He’s had three days off, this was a big game and we have a day off tomorrow,” Roberts said. “It made sense.”
Roberts initially was going to let Kershaw pitch into the eighth, and let him hit in the seventh. Instead, he went to Baez.
“He didn’t have his best stuff and those guys were taking some good swings,” Roberts said. “As I thought through it, I changed my mind.”
The Nationals went 7-2 on their ninegame West Coast trip to San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.
“If somebody had told you when we left home, ‘You’ll go 7-2,’ I’m sure everyone would be more than satisfied,” Baker said. “But when it could have been 8-1 — not satisfying.”
The Nationals return home Thursday to play a makeup game against the Orioles. Right-hander Joe Ross (2-2) will try to recover from two consecutive poor starts.
Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner is caught between third and home on a ball hit by outfielder Bryce Harper as Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal and third baseman Logan Forsythe chase him during the eighth inning on Wednesday. Turner was tagged out at home on the play to end a potential rally in a 2-1 loss.