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Scherzer on facing Kershaw in Game 1: 'This is what you play the game for'

Scherzer on facing Kershaw in Game 1: 'This is what you play the game for'

For as dominant as Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw have been in their respective careers, baseball fans have yet to be treated to a high-stakes duel between the two at the height of their abilities.

In fact, the only time these hurlers started against each other was back in September of 2008 as rookies. In other words, before the Cy Young Awards, All-Star Game appearances, strikeout titles and, in Kershaw’s case, a National League MVP.

That all changes in Game 1 of the NL Division Series. Scherzer and Kershaw, picked five selections apart in the first round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, will finally square off again, this time as two unquestioned aces pitching during the time of the year it matters most.  

“It's what you play this game for,” Scherzer said. “You don't measure yourself against the worst; you measure yourself against the best. And I think this is best opponent I could possibly face with the Dodgers and Kershaw throwing.”

“I don't expect for it to be a blowout tomorrow by any means,” Kershaw added.

Look around the playoff field, and it would be tough to find a more compelling pitching matchup than this one. So on the eve of their biggest [duel] to date, both Game 1 starters took turns singing each other’s praises.

“Just a great competitor,” Kershaw said of his Nationals counterpart. “He had an amazing year this year. You know, if not the frontrunner to win the Cy Young, definitely in the top two or three. We know we've got our hands full.”

Indeed, Scherzer is coming off another Cy Young-caliber campaign, going 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA and an MLB-best 284 strikeouts. In his second season with the Nats, the 32-year-old right hander has proven to be the top-line starter the club needed when he signed a seven-year, $210 million contract before the 2015 season.

“It's what I envisioned when I drafted him way back in the day,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo said. “He attacks. He's in attack mode. He's an aggressive pitcher. He's the guy that you want to give the ball to in the most crucial situations.”

Kershaw, meanwhile, was off to another historically great start before missing a large chunk of the year with a back injury. The 28-year-old lefty returned in September in time to make five starts, regaining his strength and finishing the regular season 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA and an impressive 172-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  

“You have go to up there and be ready to hit because you know he's not going to walk you,” first baseman Clint Robinson said. “You have to go up there and don't let him get away with mistakes. If he makes a mistake pitch, you have to be ready to get all over him and do damage. Because if not, the man has proven over the years to that if he's on, you're not going to hit him.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts put it in more simple terms. 

“I'd rather have nobody on the mound tomorrow than Clayton Kershaw,” he said.

Of course, the unpredictability of the postseason is always in play, so there’s a chance the low-scoring affair many expect may not come to fruition. Regardless, pitching matchups rarely get more hyped than this, and the Nats believe they have their man that can lead them deep into October against the opposition’s best.  

“This is something you always remember,” Scherzer said. “You want to be in these situations, because this is too much fun, to be able to go up and face a team and pitcher of this caliber.”


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Nationals set franchise scoring record in rout of Mets

Nationals set franchise scoring record in rout of Mets

WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon had 10 RBIs, three home runs and six hits as the Washington Nationals took advantage of Noah Syndergaard's injury and mauled the New York Mets 23-5 on Sunday to set a franchise scoring record.

Rendon went a career-best 6 for 6 and scored five times while setting a club mark for RBIs. He became the 13th player in major league history to drive in 10 or more runs in a game -- the first since Garret Anderson did it for the Angels in 2007.

Matt Wieters added two homers, a single and two walks as the Nationals salvaged the finale of a three-game series between NL East rivals. Adam Lind and Bryce Harper also homered, and Harper scored four runs.

Washington finished with a season-high 23 hits and scored the most runs in the history of the Expos/Nationals franchise. The Nationals' seven homers were their most since the team moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005.

After a two-run single in the first, Rendon followed with a solo homer in the third and a three-run shot in the fourth. He ripped a three-run double off the right-center wall in the fifth and nearly had another RBI when he singled in the seventh, but teammate Daniel Murphy held up at third base.

Rendon capped his incredible day with a solo home run off Mets backup catcher Kevin Plawecki in the eighth. Harper and Lind went deep against Plawecki earlier in the inning.

It was a miserable day all-around for the Mets, who won the first two games of the series after losing six straight. Syndergaard, the team's hard-throwing ace, left in the second inning with what the club called "a possible right lat strain" and was on his way back to New York for an MRI.

Syndergaard (1-2) allowed five runs on five hits in the first. In the second, he threw a strike to Harper on his 38th pitch and grimaced while reaching for his right armpit. Mets manager Terry Collins and the team trainer immediately came out, and Collins summoned reliever Sean Gilmartin.

Syndergaard was making his first start since April 20. The right-hander was a late scratch from his last scheduled outing Thursday against Atlanta due to right biceps discomfort. But he threw a bullpen Friday, said he felt fine and refused an MRI.

After the Nationals beat up on three Mets relievers, Plawecki got the final six outs.

Hours after Washington announced leadoff batter Adam Eaton has a torn knee ligament and is likely done for the season, Michael A. Taylor, Eaton's replacement in center field, had two hits.

Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Murphy also had two hits and each member of Washington's starting nine had at least one.

New York's Jay Bruce had three hits, including a solo home run, and Rene Rivera had a solo shot and a single.

Matt Albers (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings in relief.

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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.