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.
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.
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.
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