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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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Report: Nationals OF Adam Eaton out for season with torn ACL

Report: Nationals OF Adam Eaton out for season with torn ACL

Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton has a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday.

Eaton sustained the injury in Friday night’s 7-5 loss to the Mets when he stepped awkwardly on the bag while beating out a throw to first in the ninth inning. He then collapsed and needed assistance off the field.

The Nationals initially announced earlier Saturday that Eaton would go on the 10-day disabled list with a left knee strain. They also have since called up outfielder Rafael Bautista from Triple-A Syracuse.

The Nationals acquired Eaton in a trade with the White Sox in December in exchange for pitching prospects Luca Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

The 28-year-old Eaton was hitting .297 with a .393 on-base percentage and 24 runs scored for the 16-8 Nationals.

Michael A. Taylor replaced Eaton in centerfield during the Nationals’ 5-3 loss to the Mets on Saturday.

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Bullpen falters again as Nationals drop 2nd straight to Mets

Bullpen falters again as Nationals drop 2nd straight to Mets

WASHINGTON -- The New York Mets wobbled into Nationals Park this weekend with a six-game losing streak, beset by injuries and lined up to face Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and the team with the best record in the majors.

Two days later, things don't look quite so bleak.

Michael Conforto hit two home runs and slumping Jose Reyes also connected, leading the Mets over the Washington Nationals 5-3 Saturday.

"It feels great because they've got a great club and they're red-hot," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

"When you face arguably two of the best pitchers in the game two days in a row and come out with two wins, that's huge for us," he said.

After being swept at home by the Nationals last weekend the Mets have a chance to flip the script on Sunday and even the season series at three games apiece. Even though it's still April, the importance of this series wasn't lost on the Mets skipper.

"We know we've got a long track, we've got to try and get back in the hunt, and that's what we're trying to do, put some wins on the board and try and get back in this thing," Collins said.

The Nationals were still steamed over a no-call involving a steal by Jayson Werth in the fourth inning.

Werth swiped second as Jose Lobaton struck out, and got up and tangled with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera when the throw skipped away. Werth kept heading to third and was thrown out by a wide margin.

Werth argued along with Washington manager Dusty Baker that he should've been awarded the base because of the block.

"I saw him point obstruction, and then he gave some jive explanation that really didn't make sense to me," Baker said of second base umpire Angel Hernandez.

Werth saw the same thing that his manager. When asked after the game about how an umpire can point and not get the bag, Werth responded: "You're asking the wrong person at this point. I clearly don't know the rule."

A request to talk to the umpires was submitted too late to get comment.

Conforto's two-run homer in the fifth gave the Mets a 3-1 lead and his sixth home run of the season made it 4-2 in the eighth. It was Conforto's second multihomer game in the majors -- as a rookie, he did it in Game 4 of the 2015 World Series against Kansas City.

"It's huge," Conforto said about winning the first games of series against Washington's two star pitchers.

"But you know, we had a feeling that this was coming. We have a lot of faith in ourselves. Things were going bad for a bit, but there's no panic in here," he said.

Hansel Robles (4-0) came in to start the sixth and retired five of the six batters he faced, striking out four. Jerry Blevins then took over and fanned Bryce Harper.

Jeurys Familia, pulled Friday night in the ninth while Washington tried to rally, retired three straight hitters to earn his first save of the season.

Familia, who led the majors with a team-record 51 saves last year, began this season serving a 15-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy.

Strasburg (2-1) gave up three runs in seven innings. He has gone exactly seven innings in all five of his starts this season.

Ryan Zimmerman hit a home run in the eighth to cut the deficit to 4-3. Zimmerman, who also had two singles, drove in all three Nationals runs and now has 11 homers this season to go along with 27 RBIs.

Zimmerman's shot broke a tie with Andre Dawson to move into second place on the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals franchise list with 226.

Reyes hit a solo shot in the ninth, his second of the season.

Michael A. Taylor had three hits in his first game since replacing the injured Adam Eaton in center field for the Nationals. Taylor doubled in the first and added singles in the third and fifth.

Mets starter Zack Wheeler pitched 4 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and allowing one earned run while striking out four.

RELATED: ADAM EATON OUT FOR SEASON WITH TORN ACL