- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 6, 2016

Let’s start here: 5-1.

That was the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ record against the Washington Nationals this season. A sweep in L.A. was bolstered by taking two games in Washington. The Dodgers beat Tanner Roark and Joe Ross, both expected to be in the Nationals’ rotation for this series, in tight games in California. Young Julio Urias won a game in Nationals Park.

When the Dodgers look around the Nationals lineup, they will see a team filled with small injuries. At first base, Ryan Zimmerman is dealing with a calf problem. At second base, Daniel Murphy — who has limited range when healthy — is recuperating from a buttocks strain. In left field, Jayson Werth has dealt with an achy back. In right field, Bryce Harper has an ailing thumb and, reportedly, neck and shoulder problems that have slowed him for at least half the season. Harper has denied the reports of his neck and shoulder injuries. All told, that’s an ensemble with a compromised defense, undermining what has been a strength all season.

“If they put their hands on it, most times you’re out,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s just a matter of how much range they have.”

Flip to the Dodgers bullpen. It was the best in the Nationals League during the regular season, carrying a 3.35 ERA, just 0.02 runs better than the Nationals, who were second. A stacked bullpen helped the Kansas City Royals to the World Series title last season. It’s never been more critical in baseball since starting pitchers have pitched fewer and fewer complete games.

The Dodgers will also be able to stack left-handed batters against the Nationals’ best pitcher. Left-handers hit .242 against Washington ace Max Scherzer this season. Right-handers a paltry .156. If they are able to split in Washington, Los Angeles would return home tied and to a park where they play much better.

That’s the case for the Dodgers. Strong left-handed hitting against a team with limited left-handed starters; a quality bullpen and an injured opponent.

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