WASHINGTON -- The Dodgers have put some separation between themselves and the Nationals, utilizing another dominant pitching performance to lead them to a 3-2 victory in front of a sellout crowd Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park.
Los Angeles has now won four games in a row and owns a seven-game lead in the race for the top seed in the National League. The Dodgers' magic number to clinch the NL West was reduced to 5.
"You never feel that doubt creeps in with a team this talented, but I guess the way we were going it might have creeped in a little bit," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the club's recent slide, losing 16 of 17. "To win a series up there in the Bay, which we rarely do, then come here and play well against a very good team, we're trying to get that swagger back."
Dodgers pitchers were led by a stellar start from left-hander Rich Hill, who struck out seven over five innings of one-hit ball. The only blemish he allowed was a solo home run by Anthony Rendon, but Hill left the game for a pinch-hitter after throwing just 74 pitches because Roberts said he was looking for insurance runs.
"Obviously, you want to stay in and continue to pitch," said Hill, who is 10-8 after snapping a four-game losing streak. "We got the win today and that's all that matters. The bullpen did a heck of a job and everybody looks like they're coming back to form."
Meanwhile, through the first two games of this series the Nationals have tried to reveal as little as possible to the Dodgers, a team they could face down the line in the postseason. Washington inserted right-hander A.J. Cole into the rotation for this spot start and he performed admirably, giving up three runs on seven hits in five-plus innings, but Cole is unlikely to make the postseason roster.
Washington has dropped the first two games of this series and four of its last five games after clinching the NL East title on Sunday.
"I'm not worried," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "I just don't like to lose."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bellinger ties NL rookie record:Cody Bellinger hit his 38th home run of the year in the second inning, tying the National League record for home runs by a rookie. Wally Berger and Frank Robinson also hit 38 in 1930 and 1956, respectively, while Mark McGwire holds the Major League record with 49 homers during his rookie season in 1987. More >
Puig lays out: The Nationals had the potential tying run on second and the potential go-ahead run at first in the eighth inning of a one-run game with second baseman Daniel Murphy at the plate against left-hander Tony Watson. Murphy struck a line drive into right field off the bat at 92.8 mph, according to Statcast™, but Yasiel Puig made a diving catch in right field to preserve the lead and end the inning.
"Yasiel made a great play right there to save a run," said Roberts.
"As far as gathering intel, that is nice, but if the season ends today, we play the Cubs first," Murphy said. "So if I see them again, I'm sure both of our ballclubs will be pretty excited about it."
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In the last four games, Bellinger is 7-for-12 with six walks, two homers, five RBIs and five runs scored.
WHAT'S NEXT Dodgers: After skipping a start, Hyun-Jin Ryu returns to the Dodgers' rotation on Sunday in the 5:08 p.m. PT series finale. In his only career start against Washington earlier this year, Ryu allowed four runs in seven innings in a June 5 loss. Adrian Gonzalez is likely to start at first base, manager Dave Roberts said.
Nationals:Stephen Strasburg carries a scoreless streak of 34 innings into his start vs. the Dodgers at Nationals Park, which begins at 8:08 p.m. ET. The streak is the longest in the Majors this season and the longest in franchise history.