After a week filled with preparation and workouts the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals begin their quest for a World Series ring. The Dodgers won five of six regular-season meetings, though the Nationals have home-field advantage in the best-of-five National League Division Series.
Clayton Kershaw takes the mound on five days’ rest and with another opportunity to further distance himself from the perception of being unable to succeed in the postseason. Kershaw went 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA, 1.80 FIP, 0.73 WHIP, and 172 strikeouts to 11 walks over 21 starts (149 innings).
In his lone start against the Nationals this season, Kershaw allowed just one run over six innings and had eight strikeouts to earn a win.
He’s 2-3 with a 3.52 ERA in seven career NLDS starts. His last playoff start saw seven innings of one-run ball on three days’ rest to force a decided Game 5 against the New York Mets in the 2015 NLDS.
Kershaw said he enters postseason play absent of the same pressure that was felt in previous years. He attributed that to the Dodgers being a more-rounded team this season when compared to other instances they were crowned NL West champions.
The Nationals hand the ball to right-handed ace Max Scherzer, a 20-game winner who led the NL qualified pitchers in innings (228.1), WHIP (0.97), wins, and was eighth in ERA (2.96). Scherzer finished first in the Majors with 284 strikeouts.
Scherzer is 2-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 10 career games (eight starts) against Los Angeles. He didn’t pitch in any of the six head-to-head meetings this season. Scherzer is a lifetime 4-3 with a 3.73 ERA over 12 postseason games (10 starts), including a 3-1 mark with a 2.79 ERA in the ALDS.
Friday’s start is his postseason debut with the Nationals. The 32-year-old referred to the Dodgers and Kershaw as the ‘best opponent’ to face. Scherzer will face a lineup that features Andrew Toles, who is starting in left field.
The accomplishment is no small feat for Toles, who began the season with High-A Rancho Cucamonga. He spent time with Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City prior to making his MLB debut in July.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained prior to Game 1 he elected to start Toles for both his defense and offense.
Questions surround the Nationals as Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy aren’t necessarily 100 percent. Harper was said to have been bothered by a right shoulder injury throughout the year, which he and the club denied, and missed time late due to a thumb injury.
Harper is a career 1-for-15 against Kershaw, with the one hit being a home run, but also has 10 strikeouts. Because of a strained buttocks, Murphy last started Sept. 17 and was limited by to three pinch-hit appearances.
He nonetheless finished the season hitting .347/.390/.595 with 47 doubles, 25 home runs, 104 RBI, and as an NL MVP candidate. Murphy was historically great during the 2015 NLDS and NLCS, batting a combined .421/.436/1.026 with two doubles, seven home runs and 11 RBI over nine games.
Included in that was Murphy hitting a blistering .333/.333/.810 with one double, three home runs and five RBI against the Dodgers in the NLDS.
2B: Chase Utley
SS: Corey Seager
3B: Justin Turner
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
RF: Josh Reddick
CF: Joc Pederson
C: Yasmani Grandal
LF: Andrew Toles
P: Clayton Kershaw
CF: Trea Turner
RF: Bryce Harper
LF: Jayson Werth
2B: Daniel Murphy
3B: Anthony Rendon
1B: Ryan Zimmerman
SS: Danny Espinosa
C: Pedro Severino
P: Max Scherzer