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Starting rotation has been surprise weakness for Nats in NLDS

Starting rotation has been surprise weakness for Nats in NLDS

What many argued were the biggest concerns for the Nationals heading into the NL Division Series have yet to really hurt them.

Their bullpen, even after allowing two runs in Game 4, has been exceptional.

Their offense has not been plagued by the issues that killed them in 2014. And their defense, though not perfect, has largely been good.

No, in fact the biggest weakness for the Nationals so far in the NLDS has been the very thing they are built to do best, the foundation of their roster that is supposed to carry them this time of year. So far, starting pitching has been a major problem.

Even without Stephen Strasburg, they should theoretically be in good shape. They have All-Star Max Scherzer, who has a Cy Young on his record and should contend for the award this year again. Tanner Roark could have easily been an All-Star and posted the sixth-best ERA in baseball this season. 

Gio Gonzalez, though mercurial, had been good against the Dodgers this year and boasts playoff experience. And Joe Ross is a promising young talent who also fared well against L.A. this season.

RELATED: DODGERS' JOC PEDERSON STARES DOWN DUGOUT AFTER ... DOUBLE?

The Nationals had the second-best rotation ERA (3.60) in baseball in 2016. But through four NLDS games, their starters have allowed 13 runs - including five homers - in 17 1/3 innings. Only Scherzer has made it through the fifth inning and Ross on Tuesday couldn't get out of the third.

The Nats have serious rotation issues at the moment and it could cost them their season if they persist. If it weren't for their stingy bullpen and potent offense, their season could very well have been over by now.

"It's put a lot of pressure on my 'pen and on us to make the decisions," manager Dusty Baker said. 

The Dodgers' rotation hasn't exactly been great, either. Their starters have allowed 16 runs in 19 innings so far. The Nats are batting .321 as a team off of them.

It has been an ugly series for starters on both sides, even Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who has now allowed eight earned runs through 11 2/3 innings in two starts. 

But the Nationals have not been able to fully take advantage. Now they have one last chance to change that with Scherzer on the mound for a decisive Game 5 on Thursday in Washington. If there is anyone who can reverse that trend, it's him.

*Quote transcript from ASAPsports.com*

RELATED: GAME 5 TRANSIT IS GOING TO BE A NIGHTMARE

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Trea Turner has a career game as Nats clobber Reds

Trea Turner has a career game as Nats clobber Reds

WASHINGTON -- Michael Taylor homered twice among his four hits, Trea Turner finished 5 of 5 with a walk and the Washington Nationals beat the Cincinnati Reds 18-3 on Saturday.

Daniel Murphy had four RBIs for the Nationals. His three-run double highlighted the six-run second inning and Taylor's two-run homer capped a four-run fourth inning. Taylor added a solo shot in the sixth.

Turner, Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Wieters each drove in two runs. All of Turner's career-high five hits were singles including run-scoring hits in the second and eighth.

Washington led 13-0 as Joe Ross (4-3) blanked the Reds until Patrick Kivlehan's pinch-hit home run in the sixth. Ross surrendered one run and six hits over seven innings with five strikeouts and one walk.

In his first appearance since Aug. 28, Homer Bailey (0-1) allowed eight runs and six hits with three walks in 1 2/3 innings.

The Reds, who have lost 13 of 14, also gave up 17 runs on May 29 at Toronto.

Washington took the first two games of the series from the Reds after losing three of four.

Cincinnati activated the 31-year-old Bailey from the disabled list before the game. The right-hander had arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs in his right shoulder on Feb. 28.

Washington made Bailey's first outing of the season uncomfortable from the start. After Turner and Brian Goodwin opened the bottom of the first with a single and walk respectively, Zimmerman hit a one-out double into the right-center gap, scoring both runners.

Trailing 3-0 in the second, Bailey walked two batters to load the bases with two outs. Murphy cleared them with a line drive into the right-field corner and then scored on Anthony Rendon's double.

Reds reliever Lisalverto Bonilla surrendered five runs on eight hits, including both of Taylor's homers.

Bryce Harper had one of Washington's 19 hits, but he struck out three times before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth.

Kivlehan added an RBI single in the eighth.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Reds: Bailey was diagnosed with right biceps tendinitis following a one-inning start last August and eventually shut down for the season. He allowed two earned runs over 16 2/3 innings during three rehab starts before his recall Saturday. OF Jesse Winker was optioned to AAA-Louisville to make room for Bailey. ... LHP Brandon Finnegan, on the DL since Apr. 16 with a left shoulder injury, will start Monday, Reds manager Bryan Price said.

Nationals: Taylor's first four-hit game of his career came after being held out the lineup the previous two games with an undisclosed injury. The center fielder also tracked down Scooter Gennett's deep fly ball for a leaping catch just shy of the wall in the third.

UP NEXT

Reds: Scott Feldman (5-5, 4.20 ERA) leads Cincinnati with seven quality starts

Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (6-4, 4.88) allowed 13 earned runs in 7 2-3 innings over his last two starts.

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Harper's 10th-inning single lifts Nationals past Reds 6-5

Harper's 10th-inning single lifts Nationals past Reds 6-5

WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper singled in the winning run in the 10th inning, Brian Goodwin homered twice and the Washington Nationals got a solid performance from their bullpen in a 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.

Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy also homered for the Nationals, who trailed 5-2 in the sixth before coming back to deal the Reds their 12th loss in 13 games.

Trea Turner singled off Raisel Iglesias (2-2) with one out in the 10th and took third on a single by Goodwin before Harper hit a liner that struck the right-field wall on one bounce.

Matt Albers (3-1) pitched the 10th to cap an impressive night for the Nationals' bullpen, a maligned group that blanked the Reds on one hit over the final five innings.

Goodwin homered in the first inning and again in the seventh, the first multihomer game of the rookie's career.

Scooter Gennett connected for the skidding Reds.

Seeking his ninth win, Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings, walking two and striking out five. It was only the third time in 15 starts the right-hander allowed more than three earned runs, but it was also the third straight start in which he failed to go six innings.

Reds starter Luis Castillo pitched five effective innings in his major league debut and left with a 5-2 lead, but the Cincinnati bullpen deprived him of the victory. Castillo allowed two runs and five hits, walking five and striking out five.

The 24-year-old rookie was replaced by Michael Lorenzen, who promptly served up a home run to Murphy and gave up a sacrifice fly to pinch-hitter Stephen Drew later in the sixth.

Wandy Peralta took over in the seventh and, like Lorenzen, gave up a homer to the first batter he faced. Goodwin's drive to right made it 5-all.

Early on, Cincinnati dominated.

The Reds batted around in a four-run first inning that featured Gennett's 10th home run, a run-scoring fly ball by Scott Schebler and successive RBI singles from Devin Mesorasco and Jose Peraza.

Goodwin homered in the bottom half, but Mesoraco singled in a run in the third. The two-out bloop landed in front of Wilmer Difo, who was playing center field for the first time in the majors and pulled up as the ball dropped at his feet.