Strasburg, Scherzer pitch Nats past Dodgers to even NLDS
Game 3 is Sunday in Washington
The bullpen gate swung open and out trotted ... Max Scherzer? Yep, Washington's ace surprised the Los Angeles Dodgers and even a few teammates in the eighth inning Friday night.
"All the chips are on the table right now," Scherzer explained.
"We weren't expecting that," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Even with Scherzer's bullpen bombshell, Washington's shaky relief corps still ran into trouble. Daniel Hudson laboured through the ninth, loading the bases with two outs before striking out Corey Seager for the save. The tense final inning also included a twisting, falling grab by third baseman Anthony Rendon on Cody Bellinger's pop fly in shallow left field, as well as a gutsy intentional walk by manager Dave Martinez that brought the winning run to bat.
Game 3 is back in Washington on Sunday night, where Scherzer was expected to face major league ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu.
"I'm going to see how he feels tomorrow," said Martinez, adding Anibal Sanchez would start Sunday if Scherzer doesn't.
"Honestly, it doesn't matter," Scherzer said. "You bring it when you're told to bring it."
Pitching on the shortest rest of his career, Strasburg took a perfect game into the fifth inning while outdueling Clayton Kershaw. Strasburg pitched one-run ball for six innings and struck out 10, lowering his career post-season ERA to 0.64 — the best in history for players with at least four starts. He edged out Dodgers great Sandy Koufax (0.95 ERA), who watched from the front row.
"There's obviously a lot of expectations, there's a lot of excitement in games," Strasburg said, "but I really tried over the years to train my mind into thinking that every single game is just as important and just sticking to my approach."
Rookie Will Smith broke up Strasburg's perfect bid with a two-out single. The three-time all-star allowed his first earned run in 23 consecutive post-season innings dating to the 2014 NLDS against San Francisco and limited Los Angeles to three hits and no walks.
"Stras was on top of his game and really throwing the daylights out of the ball," Scherzer said.
Scherzer came on for the eighth and punched out Gavin Lux, Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson on 14 pitches. The 35-year-old right-hander threw 77 pitches in the NL wild-card game Tuesday, yet he topped out at 99 mph in his fourth career playoff relief appearance.
"I felt I could really go one inning and recover from that," Scherzer said. "I said whatever the situation is, I'm ready to pitch."