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Stopping Justin Turner, homers key for Nats win over Dodgers in Game 5

Stopping Justin Turner, homers key for Nats win over Dodgers in Game 5

Here are some trends that have stood out through four games between the Nats and Dodgers in the NL Division Series, with a focus on how Los Angeles has managed to push it to a decisive Game 5 set for Thursday night in Washington...

Dodgers are scoring early and often - Of the Dodgers' 15 runs in the NL Division Series, 14 of them have come before the sixth inning. In each game the Dodgers have scored in the first inning, five runs in total. If the Nats can put up a few zeroes to begin Game 5, that would mark a notable breakthrough given how the first four of this series have played out. The Nats have to like their chances once the game moves to their bullpen, as the Dodgers have scored just two runs in 17 2/3 innings off their relievers.

Turner is having a monster series - Daniel Murphy isn't the only former Mets player making an impact in this series. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner has scored five runs and driven in three. The 31-year-old has five hits, including a two-run homer, and four walks. He's getting on base at a .647 clip and this has all come after he was hit on his left hand in his first at-bat of the series. The Nats simply have to find a way to stop this guy.

[RELATED: Former Nats pitcher Livan Hernandez to throw out Game 5 1st pitch]

Homers have been important for L.A. - The Dodgers were an average team at hitting homers this season, but not from the left side where they placed third among all MLB clubs. L.A. has five homers this series and three of them have been from lefties Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez.

The Dodgers have scored 15 total runs in the NLDS and eight have come off homers. Seager alone has hit two of them, both in the first innings of Games 1 and 2. 

The Dodgers' reliance on homers will certainly be something to watch in Game 5 with Nats starter Max Scherzer having allowed an NL-high 31 of them this season. Seventeen of those were hit by lefties, who slugged .442 this season off the Nats' ace compared to .288 for righties. The Dodgers have several lefty power bats, plus Andre Ethier who is banged up but could be valuable in a pinch-hit spot with a .926 OPS through 24 at-bats off Scherzer.

[RELATED: PODCAST: Can the Nationals stay alive in the playoffs?]

Dodgers' bullpen has shown cracks - L.A.'s relief staff had the best ERA in baseball this season and that number has technically improved in the playoffs, but there have been several spots this seres where they haven't come through.

In the Nats' Game 2 win, lefty Grant Dayton allowed an insurance run in the seventh inning. In the Nats' Game 3 victory, closer Kenley Jansen and right-hander Ross Stripling combined to give up four runs in the ninth inning, all of them charged to Jansen, who served up a monster homer to Jayson Werth and an RBI double by Ryan Zimmerman. Then, in Game 4, Pedro Baez and Luis Avilan allowed three runs to score, all of which were charged to Clayton Kershaw. 

The Nats have to be confident at this point they can get runs late in these games, given the success they have found so far.

[RELATED: Nats need Scherzer's best in NLDS Game 5 vs. Dodgers]

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Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time

Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time

HOUSTON -- Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer, Howie Kendrick had a two-run triple and the Washington Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time, 4-3 Tuesday night in a matchup of division leaders.

Washington's winning streak over the Astros dates to 2012. The Nationals have won 13 of 14 against Houston since 2011.

Kendrick's triple tied it in the third before the Astros went back on top with an RBI single by Josh Reddick in the bottom half. Anthony Rendon doubled with two outs in the fourth before the homer by Wieters, which landed just to the right of straightaway center field, gave the NL East leaders a 4-3 lead.

Tanner Roark (10-8) allowed six hits and two earned runs in 5 2-3 innings and Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

Charlie Morton (10-6) gave up four runs in six innings for the AL West-leading Astros.

The Astros threatened in the eighth against Brandon Kintzler when Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles and the Nationals intentionally walked Carlos Beltran with one out to load the bases. But Max Stassi grounded into a double play to leave Houston trailing.

George Springer led off the Houston first with a single, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Reddick.

Beltran doubled off the wall in left-center field in the second and scored on a single by Derek Fisher.

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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