An early missed opportunity might loom large (Nats lose 2-0)

It’s not often you can put up a crooked number against Clayton Kershaw.

The Dodgers left-hander came into today with a 1.62 ERA on the season, having allowed more than two earned runs in just two of his eight starts in 2013.

The Nationals had a chance to get to Kershaw early on in tonight’s game, when they loaded the bases with two outs.

Kershaw had already thrown 25 pitches in the first inning by the time Tyler Moore stepped into the batter’s box with the sacks packed and two down. The Nats had battled the former Cy Young Award winner, with Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond reaching on singles to right and Adam LaRoche drawing a tough seven-pitch walk.

Moore couldn’t do anything with the opportunity, however, striking out on four pitches to leave the bases loaded and end the inning.

When you’re facing a guy like Kershaw, who can be nearly unhittable once he gets comfortable, you need to capitalize on every chance you get, especially early in games. You get a couple of runners into scoring position against those dominant hurlers in the early innings and don’t score, you’re often kicking yourself the rest of the game.

Since that first inning, the Nats have had just one baserunner and Kershaw has struck out six of the 10 hitters he’s faced.

Moore is now 0-for-4 with three strikeouts with the bases loaded this season. As a team, the Nats are batting .182 with the bases loaded, and they’ve driven in just eight runs in those situations, second-fewest in the majors.

The Nats trail 2-0 after four, with Andre Ethier’s two-run single off Dan Haren the lone run-producing knock of the game.

Ethier has destroyed Haren over his career, and is now hitting .429 with nine RBIs in 49 at-bats against the Nats right-hander.

Outside of hitting Kershaw to begin that two-run Dodgers third inning, Haren’s been pretty solid tonight, allowing four hits with no walks and two strikeouts.

Both starters have thrown 68 pitches so far.

Update: Haren’s been pretty darn good tonight. Kershaw’s just been better.

Kershaw has held the Nats scoreless through seven innings, surrendering just four hits and striking out 11. The lefty has been absolutely dirty tonight, and his 12-to-6 curveball has been untouchable.

Ryan Zimmerman has three hits on the night, but the Nats have managed almost nothing else around him.

Haren is through seven innings of work on 93 pitches. He’s commanded his fastball well, kept Dodgers hitters off-balance and shown really nice movement on his off-speed stuff. Haren has moved slowly when getting off the mound at times, and looked to stumble when going to cover first base in the fifth inning.

He’s looked good, but his Nats still trail 2-0 as we go to the eighth.

Update II: The Nats ran into a buzzsaw tonight, and his name was Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw came up just one out short of his 10th career complete game, but he’ll settle for his fourth win of the season. He allowed only four hits, struck out 11 and retired 24 of the last 27 Nationals he saw in a 2-0 Dodgers win. Kershaw threw 132 pitches - an almost unheard of number in this day and age - over his 8 2/3 innings.

Adam LaRoche knocked Kershaw from the game with a two-out single in the ninth, but Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen struck out Moore to end the game.

This series is now evened up at a game apiece going into tomorrow’s rubber match.

Haren was impressive again, but Kershaw was too much. Outside of Zimmerman, the Nats went 2-for-27 tonight.

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