Utley, Kazmir fuel Dodgers' win over Nationals

Utley, Kazmir fuel Dodgers' win over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- There was good news and not-so-good news when it came to Reynaldo Lopez's Major League debut on Tuesday night. He struck nine batters, which was five short of the Nationals rookie record set by Stephen Strasburg in 2010. The not-so-good news was that Lopez was hit hard as the Dodgers beat the Nationals, 8-4, at Nationals Park.

The problems started in the first inning, when Chase Utley hit a leadoff home run as part of a three-RBI night. The next two hitters -- Howie Kendrick and Justin Turner -- reached base on a single and a double, respectively. Lopez managed to get the next two outs, but Kendrick and Turner scored on a single by Joc Pederson. Lopez acknowledged he was nervous when the game started.

"Fortunately we were able to get to [Lopez] early," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "That base hit by Joc early, when he kind of was going to get out of it with one run, and that two-out hit by Joc was big."

Nationals manager Dusty Baker was shocked how the Dodgers were able to get to Lopez's fastball, which is known to be unhittable. Lopez's fastball was clocked as high as 98 mph.

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"The Dodgers didn't miss many fastballs. For a guy that throws as hard as he does, you expect them to miss more fastballs," Baker said. "He had a quite a few strikeouts, but the strikeouts came from his offspeed, slider or his changeup. You don't know if the Dodgers were seeing something or the kid wasn't pitching inside enough."

After the Dodgers scored another run in the second to make it 4-0, Lopez settled down and retired the next eight hitters. Lopez -- the Nationals' fifth-ranked prospect -- finished with nine strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on 10 hits.

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"I just had a better feel for my pitches and was learning the hitters a little better, therefore it just came to me a little better," Lopez said. "I felt like the location of the fastball was very good but they were anticipating fastball and jumping on that fastball right away so after the first few innings it seemed like I started mixing up my pitches better, and it worked out."

Pederson's two-run single

Lopez's counterpart, Scott Kazmir, was outstanding over seven innings, allowing one run on four hits with eight strikeouts.

Kazmir credited his success Saturday to his fastball.

"It felt like I was able to throw my pitches off my fastball, which was huge," he said. "I was able to throw my changeup off that fastball away, and once you have that it opens up a lot more."

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The one run scored off Kazmir came on Jose Lobaton's fifth-inning homer.

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It was a 7-1 game when the Nationals made it interesting with a three-run eighth. Trea Turner drove in two with a triple and Daniel Murphy added an RBI double.

Turner's two-run triple

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Kazmir shakes off injury: Kazmir appeared to injure his lower body on a bouncer back to the mound in the fifth. He stayed in the game, but allowed a home run to the next batter. The injury did not ruin Kazmir's impressive night, however. He returned for the sixth inning and retired the Nationals in order, then pitched a scoreless seventh. Overall, Kazmir threw seven innings (only the second time all season he'd lasted that many), allowing three hits and one run.

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Given the the depleted state of the Dodgers' rotation, the outing came at a good time.

"Kaz has a lot of fight in him, and with what we're going through, guys have got to step up," Roberts said. "And today was a great outing by Kaz. Everything was working. He had command of everything." More >

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Murphy is the man: Since the All-Star break, Murphy is 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs. Two of the those hits came against the Dodgers. In the eighth inning, he just missed hitting his 19th home run of the season. The ball hit the top of the wall and he had to settle for an RBI double.

Murphy's RBI double

Utley drives in three: Utley wasn't done after homering off Lopez to lead off the game. The veteran second baseman added an RBI single in the second, then another RBI single in the eighth to extend the Dodgers' lead to 7-1. Utley is enjoying a solid bounceback season at the top of the Dodgers' order, batting .266 with a .736 OPS while playing stout defense.

"He does everything right," Roberts said. "The first at-bat sets the tone for us, he makes plays defensively, he's always in the right spot."

Utley's RBI single

QUOTABLE
"He has really good stuff. That is a veteran lineup over there that was able to expose some of his mistakes. They were able to leverage some counts in their favor and probably cheat to his fastball like he has never seen before." -- Murphy, on Lopez More >

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SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Kazmir is now unbeaten in his last 12 starts, going 6-0 with a 3.62 ERA since May 14. During that span, he has limited opposing hitters to a .212 batting average with 78 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings.

WHAT'S NEXT
Dodgers: The Dodgers face the Nationals again on Wednesday at 4:05 p.m. PT, with right-hander Bud Norris taking the hill. Norris has a 3.94 ERA in three starts with Los Angeles since being acquired from the Braves. He faced Washington twice in April while pitching for Atlanta and took the loss both times, allowing eight runs in 12 innings.

Nationals: Gio Gonzalez will make his first second-half start against the Dodgers at 7:05 p.m. ET. In four career starts against the Dodgers, Gonzalez has a 1.73 ERA and opposing batters are hitting .185.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington and covered the Dodgers on Tuesday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.