fb-pixel

WASHINGTON — For a guy whose teams kept losing in the postseason, Max Scherzer sure is delivering now. Every time he’s pitched this October, the Washington Nationals have won.

His latest outing was a season-saving, seven-inning masterpiece that, combined with Ryan Zimmerman’s three-run homer, lifted the Nationals to a 6-1 victory over the Dodgers on Monday night, forcing a deciding Game 5 in their NL Division Series.

Scowling and muttering to himself, Scherzer allowed one run and four hits while striking out nine.

Scherzer entered these playoffs on a skid: His teams, Detroit and Washington, had been 0-7 in his most recent seven postseason appearances. But the Nationals won the NL wild-card game, which he started; Game 2 of the NLDS, when Scherzer struck out all three batters he faced in relief; and now Game 4.

Advertisement



With fans who braved some rain chanting, ‘‘Beat LA!’’ in the late going, Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson combined to get the last six outs for Washington, setting up a winner-take-all contest Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Zimmerman, 35, showed what he still can do at the plate by taking a 97-mile-per-hour pitch, the second thrown by reliever Pedro Báez, and hitting it into the green batter’s eye in straightaway center field for a three-run shot that made it 5-1.

‘‘We’re a bunch of yahoos. We’re old guys,’’ the 35-year-old Scherzer joked. ‘‘Old guys can still do it.’’

Julio Urías, LA’s third pitcher, began the fifth by serving up a line-drive single to Trea Turner (three hits). Anthony Rendon — who led the majors with 126 RBIs during the regular season but entered Monday with just one in the playoffs — then delivered a run-scoring single that made it 2-1. Rendon also brought home runs via sacrifice flies in the third and sixth.

It was plenty for Scherzer. He left after 109 pitches, the most stressful coming after he loaded the bases by issuing a pair of walks with one out in the seventh. Scherzer got out of that by striking out pinch-hitter Chris Taylor and getting Joc Pederson to ground out.

Advertisement



‘‘I was just gassed. I was out,’’ said Scherzer. ‘‘I was empty in the tank.’’

The Dodgers’ lone run came when Justin Turner connected for a no-doubt-about-it homer to left on Scherzer’s 10th pitch. But from there, facing an LA lineup stacked with a half-dozen lefty hitters, Scherzer displayed the sort of ornery dominance that helped him win three Cy Young Awards.

‘‘He might look like a maniac out there,’’ catcher Kurt Suzuki said, ‘‘but he’s smart.’’

The Dodgers are trying to get to the NLCS for the fourth year in a row, while the Nationals have never been to that round since moving from Montreal in 2005.

The Game 5 starting pitchers already have shown what they can do. Walker Buehler threw six sharp innings, allowing just one hit, and got the win in LA’s 6-0 victory at home in Game 1 last Thursday. Stephen Strasburg started Game 2 a night later, a 4-2 Washington win, taking a perfect game into the fifth, while outdueling Clayton Kershaw.

Strasburg struck out 10 and gave up just one run in six innings, leaving his career postseason ERA at 0.64 — the best in history for pitchers with at least four starts.

‘‘If I could bet, I'd bet on him,’’ Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton said about Strasburg. ‘‘He’s a very good pitcher. A polished pitcher. To have him healthy and ready to go in that situation only boosts our confidence.’’

Advertisement