Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals face the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES -- Count the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals as two of the perplexing developments in the early going of the season, as both will look to get back to the .500 mark when they meet Friday in Los Angeles.
The opener of a three-game series at Dodger Stadium comes with all the star power of title contenders. Max Scherzer (3-1, 1.33 ERA) will pitch for the Nationals against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (1-2, 1.73).
Rich Hill had been scheduled to start for the Dodgers but went on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday with a cracked fingernail on the middle finger of his left hand.
The Nationals (9-10) have actually fared much better on the road this season, so heading to the West Coast might not be such a shock to their collective system. Washington is 6-3 away from home this season and an unexpected 3-7 at home.
The Dodgers (8-9) are feeling good about being back home again, but they actually have turned around their fortunes after a short bus ride to San Diego. Los Angeles is coming off a three-game sweep of the Padres and is on a four-game win streak after beating the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.
The Dodgers are actually pointing to that Sunday game against Arizona starter Zack Godley, when they coaxed six walks, as the turning point following a 4-9 start to the season.
"When we're taking walks, using the whole field, we're pretty tough," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, according to the Orange County Register. "When we're on the offensive -- getting guys on base, running the bases well -- it just breeds energy. I think we've got an athletic group of players. When we get guys on base and traffic, the energy kind of goes to another level and we play our best."
High energy is also a defining trait of the Nationals, led by the always-determined Bryce Harper. And while Ryan Zimmerman has gotten off to a slow start, he had two home runs and a triple in Wednesday's victory at New York. New manager Dave Martinez had promised that Zimmerman's day was coming.
"We have a manager in there who believes in us," Harper said, according to mlb.com
The Nationals are still trying to get healthy with infielder Daniel Murphy and outfielder Adam Eaton on the DL, not to mention right-hander Joaquin Benoit. Third baseman Anthony Rendon is day-to-day with a toe injury.
But in winning the most recent series against the New York Mets, the Nationals seem to have distanced themselves from a five-game losing streak earlier in the month and a recent run of four defeats in five games.
The Dodgers are without a pair of infielders in Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe, but managed to revive their offense with 30 runs in three victories at San Diego and 37 runs during their four-game win streak.
After struggling to score in the early going, Los Angeles has been held under six runs in a game just once since April 11, a span of seven contests.
Kershaw is 11-2 with a 1.97 ERA against the Nationals while Scherzer is 3-4 with a 2.92 ERA against Los Angeles. The pitchers have combined to win five of the last seven NL Cy Young awards.