NLDS Game 4: Nationals keep hope alive with overpowering win against Dodgers

The Washington Nationals have pushed the Los Angeles Dodgers to the limit in the National League Division Series.

Behind an overpowering outing from ace Max Scherzer and an authoritative swing from franchise mainstay Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals walked away with a 6-1 victory in NLDS Game 4. The teams will now play a decisive Game 5 on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

After going with an unconventional approach to his pitcher usage through the NL wild-card game and the first three games of the NLDS, manager Davey Martinez went the traditional route in Game 4. He stuck with Scherzer through seven innings of one-run ball, even trusting his tiring ace to navigate a bases loaded, one-out jam in the seventh inning. Scherzer rewarded him by striking out Chris Taylor and getting Joc Pederson on an inning-ending ground out.

Overall, Scherzer allowed four hits and three walks while striking out seven. The outing came three days after Scherzer struck out the side in relief in Game 2. Former closer Sean Doolittle took over in the eighth inning and recorded four big outs for Washington, mowing down Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager. New closer Daniel Hudson took it from there.

At the plate, Washington’s lineup measured Dodgers starter Rich Hill the first time through the order before breaking through on Anthony Rendon’s sacrifice fly the second time around. Sensing there was more trouble to come, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts went to his bullpen in the third inning. It was against the Dodgers’ middle relievers that Washington’s bats really locked in.

The Nationals broke the tie and then broke the game open with a four-run fifth inning. Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick each singled, which set the stage for Ryan Zimmerman’s thunderous three-run home run against Pedro Baez. Washington added a single run in the sixth when Turner doubled and was driven in by Rendon.

WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE

• Ryan Zimmerman: The veteran infielder was the first player drafted by the Nationals after the franchise moved from Montreal in 2005. He’s been there since the beginning, and it’s only fitting that he delivered the biggest hit in franchise history.

• Anthony Rendon: Washington’s run-producing machine was exactly that. Rendon started the scoring for Washington with a third-inning sac fly against Rich Hill. In the fifth inning, he scored another run with a single against Julio Urias. Then, in the sixth inning, he added a second sac fly against Ross Stripling. Three key situations against three different pitchers. Three runs batted in.

• Trea Turner: It was a productive game for several Nationals hitters. That included Turner, who finished with three hits and two runs scored. Turner is 6-of-16 overall in the series.

MUST-SEE MOMENT

Here’s another angle of Ryan Zimmerman’s clutch home run.

The ballpark was actually shaking before he hit it.

WHAT THEY'LL BE TALKING ABOUT

Can the Nationals finally win a playoff series? It’s never happened before, and that includes the franchise’s time as the Montreal Expos. Since moving to Washington, the Nationals have been one win away from advancing on three different occasions, but lost decisive Game 5’s in 2012, 2016 and 2017. The 2016 loss came to the Dodgers.

On the other side, Dodgers fans must be wondering if this can possibly happen again. Another team that is primed and loaded to win the World Series is now one loss away from falling short of the ultimate goal. The possibility of not escaping the first round only adds to the angst.

WHAT'S NEXT

This series is headed to a do-or-die Game 5 on Wednesday in Los Angeles, and should feature a gem of a pitching matchup. We know the Dodgers will throw Game 1 winner Walker Buehler, who held Washington scoreless over six innings. It’s expected Washington will counter with Stephen Strasburg, who won Game 2 behind six innings of one-run ball. First pitch is scheduled for 8:37 p.m. ET.

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