With Patrick Corbin, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on one side, and Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu on the other, starting pitching was a focal point heading into the 2019 National League Division Series between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Buehler pointed to the starting rotations as an ode to a previous era of baseball when bullpens weren’t all the rage. While Buehler outdueled Corbin in the series opener, Strasburg returned the favor against Kershaw and the Dodgers in Game 2.
“Strasburg was very good tonight, obviously,” manager Dave Roberts said after his club’s 4-2 loss that evened up the NLDS. “Fastball played, located it, and he went to his curveball. I think he used his curveball half the time tonight. He was getting ahead all night and putting us away with that.
“And really I think Clayton and Beaty probably took the best swings against him all night long. We just really couldn’t put anything together against him.”
Strasburg’s reliance on breaking pitches helped keep the Dodgers’ power hitters at bat, and the strategy was one that caught the team by surprise. “He threw a lot more breaking balls than he has in the past,” Justin Turner said.
“We didn’t necessarily switch gears fast enough. He probably threw more breaking balls than fastballs.”
Strasburg finished with 10 strikeouts over six innings. He carried a perfect game into the fifth inning and allowed just one run — on Turner’s sacrifice fly in the sixth.
The Dodgers as a team struck out 17 times on the night and are up to 29 through the first two games. “Certainly not ideal,” Roberts said of the offensive struggles. “I thought we did obviously a better job last night.
“But, again, when we haven’t seen Strasburg use his breaking ball as much as he did tonight and so I think that typically he’s fastball-changeup, and the breaking ball was sharp. We just didn’t see it well.
“So it’s one of those things I don’t want to look too much into tonight. We’re going to have a different arm for Game 3, so we’ll be ready and I’ll be certain we won’t punch 17 times.”
With Corbin and Strasburg each having started an NLDS game, Scherzer may be next on tap for the Dodgers. He appeared in the eighth inning on Friday night and struck out the side. Scherzer remains tentatively scheduled to start Game 3 at Nationals Park on Sunday.