BY BEN NUCKOLS
WASHINGTON (AP) — Not much has gone right for the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, and it appeared the most last year’s NL champions could hope for on Saturday was a split of a day-night doubleheader with the Washington Nationals after they ran into yet another dominant start by Max Scherzer.
One swing by Matt Kemp changed everything, and the Dodgers rallied for a 5-4 victory in the nightcap and their third straight win after losing nine of their previous 10.
“We haven’t been playing as good as we’re capable of playing,” Kemp said. “Today we beat two good pitchers in one day. That’s a pretty big day for us.”
Scherzer struck out 13 in seven innings, and Washington led 4-3 entering the ninth. But closer Sean Doolittle (1-2) allowed singles to Austin Barnes and Logan Forsythe, and Kemp then lined a pinch-hit double to the wall in left field to score them both.
Doolittle said he was at fault because he misinterpreted the sign from catcher Spencer Kieboom, who was playing in just his second game for the Nationals.
“I threw a pitch that I wasn’t committed to. It was almost like I was trying to hit a moving target. And throwing the ball with conviction when you throw 90 percent fastballs is so important,” Doolittle said. “That’s a tough one to swallow because that would have been such a big win for us.”
Erik Goeddel (3-0) worked a scoreless eighth in his Dodgers debut. He was acquired off waivers on Friday from the Seattle Mariners, for whom he was 2-0 in five appearances. Kenley Jansen worked the ninth for his eighth save in 10 opportunities and his second on the day.
The Dodgers used eight pitchers. Starter Rich Hill threw just two pitches before leaving with a recurrence of the blister on his left middle finger that has already put him on the disabled list twice this season.
“Obviously, we couldn’t have predicted Rich’s stint,” manager Dave Roberts said. “To the last out, our guys fought. The guys in the pen did a fantastic job.”
In the first game, Ross Stripling struck out a career-high nine in six strong innings and Max Muncy drove in two runs as the Dodgers won 4-1. The Nationals lost left fielder Howie Kendrick to a ruptured right Achilles tendon in the eighth inning of the opener. Kendrick said he will have surgery next week and miss the rest of the season.
“Howie’s been such a huge force for us. He’s played everywhere. He’s played second, first, left,” Scherzer said. “He’s hit all over the lineup. That’s a tough loss, especially the way it happened, just a freak injury.”
Scherzer became the fastest pitcher in major league history to amass 100 strikeouts in a season, reaching the milestone in 63 innings. He has fanned 104 batters total and struck out 10 or more for the seventh time in 10 starts. He has allowed two or fewer runs in 13 consecutive starts, tying a franchise record set by Pedro Martinez when the team played in Montreal.
Washington didn’t have a hit until the bottom of the sixth, when Trea Turner opened with a double off the wall in right-center — his only hit in nine at-bats on the day — to kick off a four-run rally.
Mark Reynolds had an RBI double and pinch-hitter Matt Adams smacked a two-run single before Scherzer squeezed a grounder up the middle to make it 4-2. He is hitting .292 with three RBIs.
Scherzer came back out for the seventh, and it was the only inning in which he didn’t strike out a batter. He induced a double-play grounder from Muncy on his 121st and final pitch.
Muncy drove in both of Los Angeles’ runs off Scherzer with a solo homer in the fifth and an RBI single in the first.
Cody Bellinger hit his seventh homer this season in the eighth, a blast to center off Sammy Solis that cut Washington’s lead to one run.
A PROPER DEBUT
Kieboom made his season debut and first major league start for Washington in the opener. He got his first career hit on the first pitch he saw. Kieboom’s only previous major league appearance was in the final game of the 2016 season, when he walked in his only plate appearance.
Nationals: OF Rafael Bautista, who appeared in nine games for Washington this season, suffered a serious left knee injury during a collision in the outfield while playing for Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday night, Martinez said. Bautista will have surgery and miss the rest of the season. … IF Adrian Sanchez was brought up from Syracuse to be the 26th man for the second game.
Dodgers: Roberts said Hill’s blister was the worst he has seen since the Dodgers acquired the veteran left-hander in 2016. “I don’t know what the timeline is. We have to make sure it’s right and can sustain itself before we get him back,” Roberts said. … LHP Clayton Kershaw (left bicep tendinitis) will be back “in the near term,” Roberts said. Stripling said the Dodgers ace, whose spot in the rotation he has been occupying, was “set to throw a bullpen here pretty soon.” … LHP Tony Cingriani (left shoulder inflammation) was activated from the 10-day disabled list, and LHP Adam Liberatore was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City. … Goeddel joined the Dodgers for the second game, and ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte was optioned to Oklahoma City. … RHP Yimi Garcia was the 26th man for the second game. He pitched 1 1/3 innings, allowing one run.
Stephen Strasburg (5-3, 3.28 ERA), winner of his last three starts, pitches for the Nationals in the series finale against the Dodgers’ Alex Wood (0-4, 3.35), who has given up one earned run in each of his past three starts, getting two no-decisions and a loss.
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