Pederson stakes Dodgers to early lead (Nats lose 4-0)

LOS ANGELES - The Dodgers are making a lot of loud contact against Stephen Strasburg tonight, but so far, only one of them has managed to cause any actual damage on the scoreboard.

Joc Pederson’s solo homer in the bottom of the second represents the lone run of the evening for either team midway through this game. That blast to center field off a 97 mph fastball got out of Dodger Stadium in a hurry, but it’s hardly the only ball hit hard off Strasburg so far.

Stephen-Strasburg-set-gray-back-sidebar.jpgStrasburg got off to a quick start, throwing his first eight pitches of the game for strikes and completing a 1-2-3 bottom of the first on 10 pitches. But beginning with the bottom of the second, he allowed five consecutive hard-hit balls in the air to the outfield, with Pederson’s homer in the mix. The others all were caught, but it seems safe to say the Los Angeles lineup is seeing him well, even in the twilight.

Strasburg gave up one other hit, a one-out single up the middle to Yasmani Grandal in the fourth. Ryan Zimmerman then bailed him out a moment later, snagging Cody Bellinger’s hot shot to first base, then throwing on-target to second base to complete a double play.

The Nationals put five men on base in their first three innings at the plate against Hyun-Jin Ryu but were unable to drive any of them in. Their best chance came in the top of the third, when Trea Turner’s single and walks drawn by Bryce Harper and Zimmerman left the bases loaded with two out. But Moisés Sierra, once again batting fifth in this injury-depleted lineup, grounded out to short to end that rally and leave the Nats trailing 1-0.

Update: Strasburg did just about everything he could tonight to keep this game within striking distance for his teammates. That included a brilliant sequence to escape a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth via back-to-back-to-back strikeouts. But then pinch-hitter Kiké Hernández launched a fastball into the left field bleachers with two outs in the seventh, extending the Dodgers’ lead to 2-0. The Nats lineup, meanwhile, was utterly shut down by Ryu, who went seven scoreless innings, allowing two hits and retiring the last 13 batters he faced. They’ll have to mount a last-ditch rally against the L.A. bullpen now if they want to emerge victorious.

Update II: Not that it would’ve mattered, but Carlos Torres (in his Nats debut) turned a two-run deficit into a four-run deficit, serving up a towering, two-run homer to Cody Bellinger in the bottom of the eighth. That made it 4-0, and that was more than enough for Kenley Jansen to shut the door on the Nationals in the ninth. So they’ve split the first two games of the weekend series and now will need Jeremy Hellickson to beat Alex Wood on “Sunday Night Baseball.”

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