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Gio Gonzalez faces Dodgers as Nats aim for lead in NLDS

Gio Gonzalez faces Dodgers as Nats aim for lead in NLDS

Game 3 of the NL Division Series
Nats
 (1-1) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-1) at Dodger Stadium

The Nationals broke out offensively to take Game 2 behind Jose Lobaton's huge three-run homer. Now both teams pick back up for Game 3 in Los Angeles after a quick turnaround and a long flight across the country.

The Nats aim to take a series lead with lefty Gio Gonzalez (11-11, 4.57) on the mound. Gonzalez flew to L.A. early, before the rest of the Naitonals, so the travel shouldn't affect him as much as others.

Gonzalez, though, will look to bounce back from a rough start his last time out. He lasted only 3 2/3 innings on 100 pitches against the Diamondbacks on Sept. 28. 

Gonzalez does have a strong history against the Dodgers working in his favor. He has a 1.69 ERA across 32 innings since he joined the Nationals before the 2012 season. And this year he was the only Nats pitcher to beat L.A. during the regular season with six innings of one-run ball on July 20.

Pitching for the Dodgers will be rookie Kenta Maeda (16-11, 3.48). The Nationals will be seeing him for the first time, which could present a challenge.

Washington's lineup has a few changes in it for Game 3. Bryce Harper has been dropped down to the cleanup spot with Jayson Werth back in the two-hole. Manager Dusty Baker has made an adjustment now that the Dodgers are starting a right-hander.

First pitch: 4:08 p.m.
TV: MLB Network (free preview*)
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, ESPN
Starting pitchers: Nats - Gio Gonzalez vs. Dodgers - Kenta Maeda

NATS 

CF Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
LHP Gio Gonzalez

DODGERS

LF Howie Kendrick
3B Justin Turner
SS Corey Seager
RF Yasiel Puig
1B Adrian Gonzalez
C Yasmani Grandal
2B Charlie Culberson
CF Joc Pederson
RHP Kenta Maeda

*MLB Network has a free preview for customers using these providers: AT&T U-verse, Cablevision, Comcast XFINITY, Cox, DIRECTV, DISH Network, Frontier, RCN and Verizon FiOS through Tuesday.

[RELATED: Ramos' first pitch provides special moment for Nats]

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Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

When Max Scherzer was a teenager, he didn't know that one day he'd actually become a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He had no guarantee he'd make it to the majors, much less play in five consecutive MLB All-Star games. 

All he knew was that he had the option to go pro as a kid or go to college, and back then, the Nationals' ace needed a contingency plan in case baseball didn't work out. Fortunately for Scherzer, it did, but he doesn't regret going to college at the University of Missouri, telling Santana Moss on CSN's "Route 89" going to school was a no-brainer.

"It was actually a really easy decision," Scherzer told Moss. "When you get drafted out of high school, you're going to be going into the minor leagues, and that can take three to five or six years — multiple years — in the minor leagues, and you're forfeiting your right to further your education."

Scherzer was drafted in the 43rd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, but he opted to play for Mizzou for three years, which turned out to be a great decision. The Arizona Diamondbacks then drafted him in 2006 in the first round as the 11th overall pick. 

"A lot of times when you sign out of high school, you don't make it to the major leagues," Scherzer continued. "So I realize that your education — that's your safety net.

"You need to further your education in college, and if you do get drafted out of college, you're in a much better position to try to chase your dreams because if it doesn't work out, you still have one year left of school and that's much easier to obtain rather than try to go through four years when you're not coming out of high school."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound

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Nationals offense provides no support in Strasburg's return

Nationals offense provides no support in Strasburg's return

SAN DIEGO -- Yangervis Solarte hit a two-run home run off Stephen Strasburg in the first inning of the right-hander's first start in almost a month and the San Diego Padres beat the Washington Nationals 3-1 Saturday night.

Strasburg (10-4) retired the first two batters he faced before allowing a single to Jose Pirela and then the homer to the switch-hitting Solarte, who drove a 96-mph fastball to right for his 13th.

Strasburg then settled down against his hometown team, retiring 10 straight batters and 13 of 14. He went six innings, allowing two runs and four hits while striking out eight and walking one.

He hadn't pitched since July 23, when he went only two innings at Arizona. He went on the disabled list with an elbow nerve impingement.

Strasburg pitched at West Hills High in suburban Santee and then at San Diego State for coach Tony Gwynn before going to the Nationals with the No. 1 pick overall in the 2009 draft.

While Strasburg pitched well, the Nationals had only three hits.

San Diego's Travis Wood (2-1) also settled down after laboring through the first inning, when he threw 35 pitches but didn't allow a run. He was unscathed until the fifth, when he allowed a one-out single to Jose Lobaton and a two-out double to Adrian Sanchez. The run was unearned because of Woods' throwing error on Strasburg's sacrifice bunt that advanced Lobaton.

Wood allowed just the unearned run on three hits in seven innings, with two strikeouts and two walks.

Brad Hand pitched the ninth for his 11th save.