The mere presence of Cody Bellinger in the lineup has proven to be more than enough for the Los Angeles Dodgers to win at a blistering pace, and such was the case again on Saturday. On the verge of breaking a National League record that has stood for 87 years, the 22-year-old first baseman will attempt to lead his team one step closer to wrapping up home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs Sunday as the Dodgers look to complete a three-game road sweep of the Washington Nationals.
Bellinger finished with two RBIs Saturday as Los Angeles (96-52) held on for a 3-2 victory, lowering its magic number to clinch the NL West to five while increasing its lead over Washington (89-59) for the best record in the NL to seven. The first-time All-Star homered in the triumph to lift his season total to 38, moving him into a tie with Wally Berger (1930) and Frank Robinson (1956) for the most home runs by a NL rookie. The Dodgers also improved to 83-35 this year when Bellinger plays (13-17 when he doesn’t), but they will have their hands full if they want to add to that total and post a fifth straight victory, as Washington ace Stephen Strasburg hasn’t allowed a run in his last four starts. The right-hander will need a little help from his own offense, however, as the Nationals have scored a total of nine runs while dropping four of their last five.
TV: 8:08 p.m. ET, ESPN
PITCHING MATCHUP: Dodgers LH Hyun-Jin Ryu (5-7, 3.59 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Stephen Strasburg (13-4, 2.64)
Ryu will take the mound after 10 full days of rest following a no-decision Sept. 5 against Arizona in which he allowed one run on three hits but walked five and struck out seven across six innings. Four of the 30-year-old South Korean’s last six outings have come on the road, where he is 2-1 with a 2.86 ERA since the All-Star break. Ryu was charged with the loss versus the Nationals on June 5 after surrendering four runs in seven frames in his first career start against Washington.
Strasburg continued his run of recent dominance en route to his third win in as many starts Sunday against Philadelphia, yielding only two singles and one walk while fanning 10 over eight innings. The three-time All-Star, who did not allow a runner past first base in the contest, has not been scored upon in a franchise-record 34 consecutive innings. Strasburg took the loss versus the Dodgers on June 7 despite permitting only two runs (one earned) in six frames, falling to 1-2 with a 2.82 ERA in six starts against them.
1. Bellinger is 7-for-12 with six walks, two homers, five RBIs and five runs scored during the Dodgers’ winning streak.
2. The Nationals’ Dusty Baker is one victory shy of becoming the 12th manager in major-league history to guide a team to 90 or more wins in at least 10 seasons.
3. Despite going 1-for-11 and striking out seven times over his last three games, Washington OF Michael Taylor is still batting .394 with three home runs and nine RBIs over his last nine contests.
PREDICTION: Nationals 3, Dodgers 1