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Rendon and Werth homer, Nats beat Dodgers to take 2-1 lead in NLDS

Rendon and Werth homer, Nats beat Dodgers to take 2-1 lead in NLDS

Updated 10:46 p.m.

The Nationals know as well as most just how difficult it can be to score runs in the MLB postseason. October has its own way of sorting things out: the pitching improves, nerves come into play and in many cities the temperature drops.

Ask most baseball observers about the 2014 playoffs and they will cite the bullpen and manager Matt Williams as the root of the Nationals' downfall. But they scored just nine runs in four games. Few bullpens or coaches can overcome that.

Through three games in the 2016 NL Division Series, the Nationals have charted a divergent course. They are generating scoring chances consistently and the runs have followed. That success at the plate continued in their 8-3 victory over the Dodgers in Game 3 on Monday afternoon in Los Angeles. Those eight runs were the most ever scored by the Nats in a playoff game and almost what they put up in their entire 2014 NLDS vs. San Francisco.

The Nationals offense erupted to a stellar start, chasing Dodgers rookie standout Kenta Maeda after just three innings. Washington collected four runs in the third inning alone, two thanks to Anthony Rendon's first career postseason homer. It was also his first playoff extra-base hit and run scored. He is now an impressive 10-for-31 (.323) with five RBI through seven career postseason games.

The Nationals' first two runs were plated by Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper earlier in the third. Werth brought in Trea Turner all the way from first on a double to the right field corner, one that gave the speedy Turner a chance against Yasiel Puig's notorious throwing arm. Harper then poked a single to shallow right to score Werth from third.

Werth would add another run to their total in the ninth with a solo homer off vaunted closer Kenley Jansen. The Nats outfielder decimated a 1-0 cutter deep into the left field bleachers. It was his 15th career postseason bomb.

"That one felt pretty good. I played a lot of games here and I've always wanted to hit one out of the stadium," Werth said. "I never thought it was possible, and I still feel the same way. So that ball doesn't get out, I don't think I can do it."

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

Zimmerman drove in two more later in the ninth on a double off the wall in right field. That scored Daniel Murphy, who walked, and Harper, who was hit by a pitch. Zimmerman redeemed himself for striking out with the bases loaded on three pitches to end the top of the first.

The Dodgers gained an early advantage in the first inning on Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, once again on a big hit by rookie superstar Corey Seager. After homering in the top of the first of both Games 1 and 2, Seager ripped an RBI double in the bottom of the first on Monday. That scored Justin Turner, who reached with a one-out walk.

The Dodgers got two more runs in the fifth inning to end Gonzalez' day. Those were on a home run by Carlos Ruiz, the fifth of his postseason career. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts originally tapped Andre Ethier to pinch-hit before pulling him back for Ruiz. The veteran catcher then smoked a 3-1 fastball over the fence to score himself and Joc Pederson, who got on with a one-out single. 

Pederson and Ruiz landed two of the four hits Gonzalez surrendered on the afternoon. He walked one and was charged with three runs through 4 1/3 innings.

The Nationals' bullpen continued to shine in Game 3. Lefty Sammy Solis made his third straight appearance, this time with 1 2/3 scoreless innings. He's tossed four shutout frames this series on two hits and two walks. Solis has yet to show his inexperience and looks like the unique weapon he was for much of the regular season.

[RELATED: Report: D'Back want Nats GM Mike Rizzo for front office]

Fellow lefty Oliver Perez then faced two batters in the seventh and allowed one hit. Shawn Kelley finished the frame, capped by a strikeout of Turner in a full count, and returned to toss a perfect eighth. Kelley went 1 2/3 perfect frames with three strikeouts and built a bridge to closer Mark Melancon, who tossed a clean ninth.

The Nats' relief corps has yet to allow a run this postseason through 12 1/3 innings. Collectively, they have 14 strikeouts.

"I tell you, the bullpen was awesome," manager Dusty Baker said. "All the guys contributed. Sammy Solis got the win, but he did an outstanding job. What a job that Kelley did for us. I mean, he went through the heart of the order and that's the best we've seen him in a while, but he was well rested."

"It's exciting. I guess it could be maybe a little boring at times because they get everybody out," Rendon said.

Murphy went 0-for-4 outside of his walk. Turner singled and scored, but struck out three times. He has eight strikeouts through three playoff games. Danny Espinosa also had a rough day with a strikeout and a hit-by-pitch, his third of the series. That's the most ever in an NLDS.

The rest of the Nationals lineup did plenty to compensate for those troubles. Harper had a single, two walks and a run. Werth had three hits - including the homer - and a walk and is now 5-for-13 with four runs scored in the series. Zimmerman walked, singled and doubled. He now has five hits in the series.

With a 2-1 lead in the NLDS, the Nationals are one win away from advancing to the Championship Series. The NLCS would push them closer than any D.C. sports team has been to a world championship in 18 years. 

The last D.C. major sports (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) team to reach the semifinals of their league was the 1997-98 Capitals, who were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. No other North American city with at least three such teams has waited longer.

The 1998 Caps are the only D.C. team to get that close to a world title since 1992, when the Redskins won the Super Bowl. That was the last D.C. world championship. Only Minneapolis-St. Paul has waited longer for a title, among U.S. cities with at least three major sports teams.

Put simply, one more win would be the biggest victory for a D.C. team in almost 20 years. The Nationals have been close before. They were one strike away in 2012. Now, they have another chance.

Quotes via SportsNet Los Angeles and ASAPsports.com

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

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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.