WASHINGTON, D.C – If this is a preview, it is a movie trailer lacking some of the stars.
It is presumptuous to think the Dodgers and Washington Nationals will meet in the playoffs. If things stay as they are, the Dodgers would have to pass a first-round challenge from the wild-card winner (which could be the Arizona Diamondbacks, who won the final six games head-to-head with the Dodgers) and the Nationals would have to knock out the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs to set up a Dodgers-Nationals NLCS.
But it is possible.
“I don’t think we need to make a statement. But I do think it’s important for us to play good baseball,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before his team took the first two games of its series in Washington. “And with baseball, there is a psychological component to pitcher-batter, team vs. team that I think you can’t really quantify. But I think there is something to it.
“We lost a series to these guys at home. For us to go into their ballpark, a team that is playing well – I think it’s important, not only just because it’s the Nationals but also for us internally just to play good baseball. If we do that, that’s a statement enough.”
Nationals manager Dusty Baker looked at the matchup as a chance to gather more information about a potential playoff opponent – one that went through some rough times recently.
“Something happened over there where Arizona has learned a whole bunch about them and we know nothing about them,” Baker said to reporters Friday. “So I think it’s great that we’re playing them this late. Even if they learn something on us, we learn a whole bunch about them.”
Neither manager is showing all his cards, however.
The Dodgers are giving Clayton Kershaw an extra day’s rest and won’t start him until Monday in Philadelphia. The Nationals will not face him or Yu Darvish, who has faced them just once in his career (three years ago). The Nationals similarly maneuvered their rotation so the Dodgers will not face Max Scherzer or Gio Gonzalez in this series.
By taking early leads in the games Friday and Saturday, the Dodgers have also not seen the Nationals’ new closer, Sean Doolittle, who was acquired mid-season from Oakland.
“I think you do that with everyone,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said when asked if it would help to see pitchers he could potentially face again next month. “You try to put together a mental blog on everyone so if you face them again…