Game #39 Recap: Clayton Kershaw's Pretty Good

The Washington Nationals ran into perhaps the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, and fell 2-0.

The Nationals appeared to have conceded the difficulty of facing Kershaw before the game even started. Davey Johnson, likely recognizing the dominance of Kershaw, gave Denard Span the night off along with his fellow outfielder Bryce Harper, who was sitting after his collision last night. Leaving a lineup filled with mostly backups.

Kershaw did not need the help though as he baffled Nationals hitters for 8.2 innings, coming one batter short of the complete game shutout.

Only Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche managed to get on-base for the Nats tonight. All three did so in the first inning, the only time Kershaw really struggled, throwing 29 pitches in the first.

The Nationals pushed the pitch count up, but not fast enough to get Kershaw out of the game in time to do any damage. He finished the game after 132 pitches, allowing five hits and a walk, while striking out eleven. Danny Espinosa, who was batting lead off in the bench player filled line up, Wilson Ramos  and Dan Haren were all multiple strikeout victims to Kershaw.

Dan Haren drew the short end of the stick having to be the one to face Kershaw. Haren pitched well enough to win in almost any other game, going seven innings and only allowing two runs, on four hits, no walks and four strikeouts.

Haren caused some concern in the fifth inning when he stumbled off the mound while trying to cover first base on a weak grounder to first. Haren pulled up short of first and LaRoche had to get the out himself before checking on the pitcher. Haren appeared to mouth "my back" indicating the issue was there, but he was fine enough to complete two more innings.

Update: After the game it was reported that Haren caught his left cleat and rolled his ankle and felt pain up his leg, but is fine now.

The Nationals made a threat in the top of the ninth when Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond drove balls to the warning track, just a few combined feet from tying the game. Adam LaRoche made things interesting by singling after a ten pitch at-bat, forcing Kershaw from the game. However, Kenley Jansen struck out Tyler Moore to end the threat and the game.

The Nationals will look to take the rubber match tomorrow with Ross Detwiler taking the mound. Zack Greinke will start for the Dodgers, his first start since injuring his shoulder in an altercation with San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin.

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