Nats keep it close, but fall again to Dodgers 3-2

The Dodgers beat the Nationals for the second game in a row in this series, but this one was much more competitive than Friday’s 7-0 setback.

Rich Hill fired five innings of one-hit, one-run ball and five relievers combined to allow one more run as the Dodgers held on to beat the Nats 3-2. Kenley Jansen came on in the ninth to record his 38th save.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker called Hill “effectively wild.” It came down to Hill mixing his pitches and being able to command his curveball.

Second baseman Daniel Murphy, who went 0-for-4 but also had an eighth-inning line drive caught on a diving play by right fielder Yasiel Puig, said Hill can make it difficult to find a zone in which you can lock in.

Daniel-Murphy-swing-white-sidebar.jpg“At least from my perspective, he kind of can throw from different angles and he shifts them, and changes his times to the plate,” Murphy said. “He does a good job of disrupting timing. He threw some really good fastballs behind in the count when you thought he might throw some breaking balls, at least to me, so he’s always been a tough at-bat, and he threw the ball well for them today.

Nats starter A.J. Cole lasted five innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. The Dodgers enjoyed a 2-for-3 performance from first baseman Cody Bellinger. The rookie hit his 38th homer of the season and added a run-scoring single in back-to-back at-bats against Cole, providing the Dodgers with an early 2-0 lead.

Cole hung in there through the fifth. But in the sixth, Cole allowed a single to Curtis Granderson and then hit catcher Austin Barnes with a pitch. Baker replaced Cole with Oliver Pérez, who was able to get out of the inning. By that time, the Nats were down 3-1 and were trying to squeeze one more inning out of Cole, but that lasted just two batters. He finished with 92 pitches, 57 for strikes.

“That last inning, I’m on four days of rest, so I’m trying to push and give everything I have for them,” Cole said. “I just kind of ran out of gas in that last inning. Just trying to make pitches. One ball got away from me in that last inning trying to go in, slipped a little bit, hit him.”

The Nats offense began in the fourth with a solo homer by Anthony Rendon that cut the Dodgers’ lead to 2-1. The blast was his 24th homer of the season.

In the eighth, the Nats attempted to mount a game-tying rally. Pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo singled and went to third on pinch-hitter Adam Lind’s grounder that went under the glove of Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. Trea Turner’s single through the hole at shortstop scored Difo to cut the lead to 3-2. Pinch-runner Rafael Bautista ended up at second base. After Howie Kendrick flew out to center, Murphy’s drive was caught by Puig to end the threat.

So the Dodgers have won the first two games of the series against Edwin Jackson and Cole. The duo has combined for only 18 starts this season for the Nats. Baker said he takes more from being able to get some at-bats against a Dodgers bullpen that his club hasn’t seen much of in its new form.

“That’s some consolation, but still I’m glad that we have faced probably the stronger side of their bullpen, which we haven’t seen in a long time,” Baker said. “The fact that Lind will probably see (Tony) Watson, he’s seem him and I think it’s good that we get familiar with these guys because we haven’t seen them in a while.”

The Nats have now lost four of their last five games since clinching the National League East division last Sunday, outscored 28-9. But Murphy is not reading too much into that, even if it’s against the Dodgers these past two setbacks.

“I think the cool part about our ballclub the entire year is we’ve been more concerned about what’s going on in our locker room than what’s going on outside,” Murphy said. “There’s freedom in that.

“I think we’re concerned about what we’re trying to do. We would have preferred not to lose the first two games of this series, but if I’m not mistaken, (Stephen Strasburg) is going tomorrow. Hopefully, we can get Game 3 of this series before the off-day.”

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