It hasn’t taken long for the Los Angeles Dodgers to figure out what they have in 22-year-old Cody Bellinger, and the Washington Nationals hope they may be on the verge of getting similar contributions from 20-year-old Victor Robles. The Nationals’ young outfielder hopes to follow up a brilliant performance in his second career start when Washington hosts the Dodgers on Friday for the opener of a three-game series featuring the two teams with the best records in the National League.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker opted to rest a few veterans after his club lost the first two games of its series with Atlanta by a combined score of 16-2, and Robles made the decision pay off in a big way by going 2-for-4 with two runs scored in Thursday’s 5-2 win. The victory allowed Washington (89-57), which already has clinched the NL East, to close within five games of idle Los Angeles atop the league standings. The Dodgers (94-52), who still boast the best record in the majors despite losing 16 of 17 from Aug. 26-Sept. 11, lowered their magic number to clinch the NL West to seven by capturing the final two contests of their three-game set in San Francisco for their first series victory in just under three weeks. Bellinger complemented strong performances by Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish in those victories, going a combined 4-for-6 with a triple, home run, three RBIs and four runs scored.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, MLB Network, SportsNet LA (Los Angeles), MASN 2 (Washington)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Dodgers LH Alex Wood (14-3, 2.81 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Edwin Jackson (5-5, 4.14)
Wood struggled through one of his more difficult outings while getting saddled with a second straight loss Saturday against Colorado, surrendering five runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings. Since posting a 1.56 ERA while winning each of his first 11 decisions, the North Carolina native is 3-3 with a 5.10 ERA while battling a sternum injury. Wood hasn’t faced Washington since 2015 and is 0-2 with a 2.85 ERA in four career starts at Nationals Park, but he has been stellar in 11 road turns this season, going 6-1 with a 2.38 ERA.
Jackson has labored through two September starts and is coming off his worst effort since joining the Nationals in mid-June. The former Dodgers farmhand fell to 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA this month after getting tagged for five runs on seven hits - two homers - and three walks in a loss to Philadelphia on Saturday. Curtis Granderson (5-for-16) and Adrian Gonzalez (4-for-13) both have homered against Jackson, who is 4-3 with a 4.15 ERA in 10 career games (eight starts) versus the Dodgers.
1. Washington took the first two meetings in Los Angeles in their early June series, but the Dodgers’ triumph in the finale started their run of winning 56 of 67 games.
2. Nationals SS Trea Turner needs one more stolen base to tie the club record of 41 set in 2006 by Alfonso Soriano.
3. Despite batting .222 with no more than one hit in any game this month, Los Angeles SS Corey Seager is hitting .331 since Aug. 3.
PREDICTION: Dodgers 6, Nationals 4