The Dodgers didn’t make it easy on Max Scherzer. In the end, though, he was just better than Clayton Kershaw.
Scherzer (4-1) scattered four hits, struck out nine and walked a season-high three in the first such matchup since 2006.
“Their lineup is tough and they present a lot of problems,” he said. “But you don’t measure yourself against the worst, you measure yourself against the best.”
Kershaw (1-3) gave up four runs and nine hits in seven innings while striking out a season-low four against no walks. The left-hander started the 2009 season with the same record.
“Max limited the damage better than I did,” Kershaw said. “Just not enough good pitches with runners in scoring position. When you’re going against Max, it’s going to be tough.”
Washington improved to 7-3 on the road and ended the Dodgers’ four-game winning streak.
“We kept getting guys on base, but we couldn’t score,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
The Nationals wasted no time in getting to Kershaw.
Trea Turner doubled on his first pitch — a 91 mph fastball — to open the game. After Howie Kendrick flied out, Bryce Harper banged an 87-mph, first-pitch slider into right field for an RBI single. He took second on Kershaw’s wild pitch. Ryan Zimmerman followed with an RBI double to center for a 2-0 lead.
“I was ready to hit the first pitch,” Zimmerman said. “The deeper you go into at bats with him, the harder it gets.”
Kershaw retired 11 in a row after his messy start in front of 50,211 on an unseasonable 62-degree evening.
Scherzer also gave up a hit to start the game, a triple by Chris Taylor. After hitting Corey Seager in the right leg, he retired the next three batters, striking out two.
The Nats bailed out Scherzer in the third. After striking out Kershaw, he walked Taylor and hit Seager for the second time before the defense turned Yasmani Grandal’s grounder into an inning-ending double play.
“I felt like I was falling behind in the counts and just wasn’t pitching quite as efficient as I would like to, and it led to three walks,” Scherzer said. “(Matt) Wieters called some good pitches and the offense kept scrapping along. It made for a good team win.”
Sean Doolittle pitched the ninth for his fourth save.
Washington added a run in the fifth on Michael A. Taylor’s bunt single to Kershaw that beat the shift. Kershaw first looked helpless as he searched for someone to throw to and then annoyed when no one covered first.
“Belli and I have to be on the same page,” Kershaw said of first baseman Cody Bellinger. “Either I go to the base or he does. We can’t do the same thing.”
Kershaw gave up three singles to center in the sixth. Taylor’s RBI came with two outs and had Kershaw ducking to avoid being hit as the Nats extended their lead to 4-0.
Washington made it 5-2 in the eighth after Pedro Baez gave up his third bases-loaded walk of the season to Wilmer Difo with two outs. Baez exited to boos.
Yasiel Puig snapped the Dodgers’ 0-for-6 string with runners in scoring position streak with a two-out, two-strike RBI single in the sixth that made it 4-1.
Los Angeles trailed 4-2 in the seventh on Grandal’s single off Sammy Solis. The Dodgers had the potential tying runs on and go-ahead run at the plate when pinch-hitter Matt Kemp grounded into a fielder’s choice to second that ended the threat.
“That was a playoff atmosphere,” Solis said.
Nationals: OF Adam Eaton (left ankle bone bruise) hit in the batting cage and ran and is close to returning. … 3B Anthony Rendon (day-to-day with toe injury) took ground balls and hit on the field. He is likely to play this weekend.
Dodgers: INF Justin Turner (left wrist fracture) took ground balls and hit off a tee for the first time. He says his soreness is dissipating, although no date has been set for a rehab appearance. … INF Logan Forsythe (right shoulder inflammation) took swings in the cage, but still has fatigue in his shoulder. … LHP Rich Hill was supposed to start Friday, but is on the DL with a cracked nail on his middle left finger.
Kershaw had his nine-game winning streak against the Nationals dating to 2010 snapped. However, he is 11-3 with a 2.18 ERA against them. So far this season, Kershaw has a 2.45 ERA with 35 strikeouts and three walks while holding hitters to a .228 average.
HARPER ON BASE
Harper went 1 for 4 with two runs and a walk. He’s reached base safely in 17 of 20 games to open the season, with 20 runs, one double, eight homers and 19 RBI.
Taylor went 2 for 4 with a run while recording his third multi-hit game of the season. In his last six games, he’s hitting .300 with six runs, three doubles and three RBI along with a .391 on-base percentage. “He’s been trying to cut down on his stride a little bit and stay in the middle of the field, and it was good to see him hit a breaking ball,” Martinez said.
SIT DOWN CATCH
Puig caught a sinking line drive off Harper’s bat in the sixth while sitting down in right field.
RHP Stephen Strasburg (2-1, 3.08 ERA) starts for the Nats against LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (2-0, 2.87) on Saturday. The Nats won both matchups against Ryu last season, 4-2 in LA and 7-1 in Washington. Ryu didn’t factor in the road loss.
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