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Nats come back, but fall to Dodgers in NLDS-tying Game 4 loss

Nats come back, but fall to Dodgers in NLDS-tying Game 4 loss

If the Nationals are to advance to the NL Championship Series, further than they have ever traveled in team history, and further than any D.C. baseball team has been in 83 years, it will have to wait at least another 48 hours.

The Nats broke down superstar ace Clayton Kershaw to battle their way back in Game 4, only to see a Chase Utley eighth-inning single lift the Dodgers to a 6-5 series-tying victory.

Utley, a man who tormented the Nationals for years as a star on the division rival Phillies, made his mark once again. This time it came in October, with higher stakes on the postseason stage.

Now, it all comes down to Thursday. The Nationals and Dodgers will put their seasons on the line in Washington, each team hoping to exorcise the demons of their playoff past.

"Man, that was a hard-fought game on both sides," manager Dusty Baker said. "That's why we fought so hard for the home-field advantage. You don't think it's going to come into play, but most of the time, it does. And so we're going home."

Utley brought in Andrew Toles, who began the rally by getting hit by a pitch. The Nats and Dodgers now own a playoff-record with a combined 11 hit batters in this series.

Plunking Toles was the first sign of trouble for Nats reliever Blake Treinen after he recorded two quick outs to begin the frame. Once Toles got on, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called on veteran Andre Ethier to pinch-hit. He promptly singled to left field to shift Toles into scoring position. Utley then poked an 88 mile per hour slider past Daniel Murphy and into right field.

That helped the Dodgers overcome a three-run seventh inning for the Nationals against Kershaw, an effort that began with a leadoff single by Danny Espinosa, his first hit of the series. Trea Turner moved Espinosa to second on a slow-rolling grounder hit to shortstop Corey Seager with two outs.

Bryce Harper then kept the inning alive with a masterful eight-pitch walk after first going down 1-2 to load the bases. It was a matchup of the last two NL MVPs and it resulted in Kershaw's exit from the game.

Jayson Werth was then hit by a Pedro Baez pitch to score one run before Murphy answered with a game-tying, two-RBI single to left field off Luis Avilan.

"That's what baseball is all about right there, a matter of will," Baker said. "Kershaw was on empty. We knew it. They knew it. Everybody knew it. That was some battle."

[RELATED: Nats manager Baker on how he got the nickname 'Dusty']

Murphy did the most of anyone to bail out Nationals starter Joe Ross, who lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his postseason debut. The Nats right-hander gave up four runs on three hits and two walks. Two of those runs came on a no-doubter home run by Adrian Gonzalez in the first inning, a swing that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead at the time. 

Ross found more trouble in the third inning, his final frame. Justin Turner landed an RBI single to left field in between Werth and Trea Turner, the latter of which appeared to take an incongruent route towards the ball. Ross then hit Joc Pederson on the knee with the bases loaded to score a run. Again, lots of hit batters.

"He lost where the plate was," Baker said of the 23-year-old starter.

The Nationals also got early runs off Kershaw, including an RBI single to right field by Murphy, one that scored Turner from second, in the first. Turner led off with a single and was followed by a nine-pitch Harper walk to set up Murphy. Ryan Zimmerman flew out to right field with runners on the corners to end the frame. He went 0-for-4 on the day.

Kershaw gave up another run in the third, also on a swing by Murphy to score Turner. The rookie again led off with a single before Murphy sent him home on a sacrifice fly.

Murphy now has 17 RBI in 18 career postseason games. That's second-most in MLB history for players with 18 or fewer career playoff games.

Turner had three hits and three runs in the game. Werth and Murphy had two hits apiece, while Espinosa had one. Everyone else in the Nats' lineup went hitless.

It was the third inning when Kershaw settled in and started looking like himself. The former MVP retired eight straight batters through the fifth inning with four strikeouts during that stretch. 

Kershaw found his groove for several frames as shadows crept in on the infield grass at Dodger Stadium. That didn't make it any easier for the Nationals against the three-time Cy Young winner, until the seventh when he finally cracked. He finished with 10 strikeouts, but five earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.

The Nationals' bullpen had to put in extra work once again and finally gave in for the first time in this NLDS. Reynaldo Lopez took over in the fifth inning and got two quick outs before letting Josh Reddick reach on an infield single. Pederson then brought him home on a double off the left field wall, a hit Pederson initially thought was a homer.

Game 4 featured four lead changes, including Utley's go-ahead single. It kept the Dodgers' season alive for at least two more days. On Thursday, they will look to play spoilers as the Nats - and Baker - aim to prevent another playoff collapse.

*Quote transcripts via ASAPsports.com*

[RELATED: Werth on 2016 Nationals: 'I feel like this is our chance']


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Max Scherzer's bid for third no-hitter ends in heartbreak

Max Scherzer's bid for third no-hitter ends in heartbreak

Max Scherzer's bid for the third no-hitter of his big league career ended with one out in the eighth inning, and he then gave up two unearned runs as the Miami Marlins rallied to beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 Wednesday.

After backup catcher A.J. Ellis reached on an infield single for Miami's first hit, an error by first baseman Adam Lind and a hit batter loaded the bases with two outs. Scherzer threw a wild pitch that scored the tying run, and Giancarlo Stanton lined an RBI single -- the Marlins' only other hit -- to put them ahead.

Scherzer (8-5) threw no-hitters against the Pirates and Mets in 2015, and he seemed on his way to another when he began the eighth inning with a 1-0 lead.

He retired 18 in a row before Ellis hit a chopper that bounced in front of the plate and glanced off the tip of Scherzer's glove as he reached overhead for it. The ball rolled to shortstop Trea Turner, who failed in his attempt to make a barehanded pickup and rush a throw.

MORE NATS: 12-3 win over Marlins Tuesday

Official scorer Ron Jernick immediately ruled the play a hit, and Scherzer knew it. He picked up the ball and angrily flung it to the dugout -- not as a souvenir.

Washington totaled five hits against Dan Straily and three relievers. Kyle Barraclough (3-1) pitched the eighth, and A.J. Ramos worked around a two-out single in the ninth for his 10th save.

Scherzer threw a season-high 121 pitches and had 11 strikeouts, reaching double figures for the sixth game in a row, the team's longest such streak such the franchise moved to Washington for the 2005 season.

He lowered his ERA to 2.08, best in the NL. He also leads the league with 145 strikeouts.

The other no-hitter in the majors this year was achieved on the same mound by Miami's Edinson Volquez against Arizona on June 3.

RELATED: 2017 MLB Power Rankings

The crowd of 22,659 for the 12:10 p.m. start included thousands of youngsters on camp day, and they gave the game a scream-filled soundtrack.

The score was 0-0 until Washington's Ryan Raburn hit his first homer of the year in the fifth. Raburn was a late replacement for outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who was scratched because he wasn't feeling well.

That was the only run allowed by Straily, who went six innings.

Scherzer walked Christian Yelich with two out in the first and hit Derek Dietrich with a pitch with one out in the second. That was Miami's last baserunner until the eighth.

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The Nats got hot Tuesday in Miami with 12-3 win over Marlins

The Nats got hot Tuesday in Miami with 12-3 win over Marlins

Gio Gonzalez had some worrisome moments on the mound Tuesday night, including when a friend sitting in the first row behind the Washington Nationals' dugout was hit in the head by a flying bat.

"Next time in the front row everyone will be wearing a helmet," Gonzalez said.

The friend later said he was fine, and Gonzalez felt good too after pitching seven innings to beat the Miami Marlins 12-3.

Gonzalez (7-1) allowed three runs, including two on Marcell Ozuna's 19th homer , but struck out eight and won his fourth consecutive decision.

"Exactly what we needed," manager Dusty Baker said. "Gio's throwing the ball great."

He had plenty of support even before a five-run ninth. Bryce Harper started the scoring with a two-run single that extended his hitting streak to 13 games, and Daniel Murphy had two RBIs and hit his 12th homer . Stephen Drew had three hits and three RBIs, while Ryan Zimmerman drove in three runs with a double and a single.

Gonzalez, who grew up in nearby Hialeah, improved to 7-3 in 13 starts against his hometown team with an ERA of 2.19. He had a cluster of friends and relatives in attendance, and that's where Justin Bour's bat went when it slipped from his hands on a swing in the fifth inning.

"It's good to have friends here, but put them somewhere safe," Gonzalez said.

He said his pal who was hit received a souvenir later as compensation for being clubbed.

"Bour gave him a bat, which is pretty cool on his part, because we want the fans to come back," Gonzalez said.

The left-hander said it was too early to talk about the possibility of pitching in the All-Star game, which will be played in his hometown next month. His teammates are rooting for it.

"Gio has been great," Harper said. "I'm hoping he pitches like this the rest of the first half and gets the start here. It would be incredible to see."

The NL East leaders went 7 for 14 with runners in scoring position, but it was still 0-0 when Edinson Volquez (3-8) walked Michael A. Taylor and Trea Turner in the third inning, and they advanced on a double steal.

With two outs, Harper tried to bunt on the first pitch -- a curious move by the slugger -- and pushed it foul. He golfed the next pitch into center for the Nationals' first hit to put them up 2-0.

"I don't hit Volquez very well," Harper said. "If I can lay a bunt down with a guy at third and get a knock and score a run ... but it worked out."

Pitching to Harper backfired for Miami, so the next time he came to bat, when the Nationals again had a runner in scoring position, Marlins manager Don Mattingly opted for an intentional walk. Zimmerman foiled the strategy with a two-run double.

"They've got a good lineup," Mattingly said. "They put you in a box in a number of ways."

Volquez allowed a season-high six runs in 4 2/3 innings.