The Washington Nationals’ postseason strategy of milking as many outs as possible out of their front-of-the-line starters hit a snag in Game 3 in the National League Division Series. The snag being that when the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bats wake up, it may not matter who is pitching.
The Dodgers pounded the Nats for seven runs in the sixth inning, changing the tempo of both this game and perhaps the series, as L.A. earned a 10-4 win and took a 2-1 series advantage.
Everything seemed to be going well enough for the Nats before the sixth inning. Anibal Sanchez, who manager Davey Martinez opted to start instead of ace Max Scherzer, was brilliant through five innings. He struck out nine in five innings, allowing just a Max Muncy homer.
We know the Nats’ bullpen is their weakness and in October they’ve countered that by piggy-backing starters. Scherzer was pushed back to Game 4 after coming in relief in Game 2. On Sunday night, the Nats brought out Patrick Corbin, their Game 1 starter, after Sanchez, and that seemed like bad news for a listless-looking Dodgers lineup. Turns out it was exactly what they needed.
A clutch double by Russell Martin made Washington’s 2-1 lead disappear as the Dodgers took a 3-2 lead. Enrique Hernandez followed shortly afterward with another two-run double to make it 5-2 and then by the time Justin Turner blasted a three-run homer, it seemed like the Dodgers were just piling on.
Sanchez gave up four hits to the Dodgers through five innings, Corbin and Wander Suero gave up six just in the sixth.
The Nationals, to their credit, rebounded right away as the Dodgers unveiled their own bullpen woes. Joe Kelly couldn’t get anyone out either, and the Nats added two mores in their half of the sixth inning to make it 8-4. The Dodgers bullpen did its job from there and Martin added a two-run homer in the ninth to make it 10-4.
Now, their postseason hopes depend on Scherzer in Monday’s Game 4.
WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE
• Russell Martin: The Dodgers are so deep that you may not even remember they have Martin sometimes. The Nationals won’t forget him. His two-out, two-run double in the sixth inning is what changed the volume of this game — and perhaps the series. His two-run homer in the ninth put this one completely out of reach.
• Justin Turner: It was Turner’s three-run, six-inning homer that turned this game from competitive to OMG Dodgers, but his contributions were more than the homer in Game 3. He had two other hits and remained the most consistent bat (along with Muncy) in a Dodgers lineup that was quiet in the early going of this one.
• David Freese: Yes, he’s still around getting clutch postseason hits. Freese, who pinch hit for rookie Gavin Lux, came off the bench to notch three hits and score two runs.
Quite honestly, it was the whole sixth inning — one big hit after another for the Dodgers. That it happened after being mostly silenced for five innings made it even more important for the Dodgers.
WHAT THEY'LL BE TALKING ABOUT
Whether the Nationals have the pitching to beat this Dodgers team. Their pitching strategy was to be applauded after their Game 2 win and half of this one, but it’s becoming evident that they can’t depend on their three core starters to both start and relieve. Can Scherzer give them seven or eight strong innings in Game 4? If not, what will the Nats do? Will a dependable reliever emerge?
This series heads to Game 4 right away, as the Dodgers and Nats meet again Monday night at 6:40 p.m. ET. The Nationals will send their ace Max Scherzer, who last started the NL wild-card game, but did appear in Game 2 of this series with an unhittable relief appearance. The Dodgers counter with veteran Rich Hill, who will be making his first appearance of the postseason. After an injury-riddled 2019 season, Hill isn’t full strength and the Dodgers are hoping for four innings from him. From there? We’ll see.
More from Yahoo Sports: