Walker Buehler and Max Muncy made sure Los Angeles, trying to get back to the World Series for a third straight year, got their post-season off to a flying start.
Starting pitcher Buehler on Thursday surrendered just one hit in six scoreless innings and Muncy drove in three runs as the Dodgers defeated the Washington Nationals 6-0 in Game 1 of the best-of-five National League Division Series.
The winner faces either the St Louis Cardinals or Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series.
St Louis seized the initiative against the Braves with a victory in Atlanta, Georgia, rallying with four runs in the ninth inning of a 7-6 triumph.
Buehler, who got the nod ahead of Clayton Kershaw and Ryu Hyun-jin, justified the faith of manager Dave Roberts.
He struck out eight, walked three and retired the final seven batters he faced.
“He went out there and he set the tone for us,” Muncy said. “He was pounding the zone. He was having a lot of attitude and it carried over to the whole team.”
Meanwhile, Washington starting pitcher Patrick Corbin issued four walks in the first inning, including three in a row with two outs.
Muncy walked with the bases loaded to put the Dodgers ahead.
The Dodgers were up 4-0 when Gavin Lux and Joc Pederson belted pinch-hit home runs in the eighth inning to stretch the lead.
An error by Nationals first baseman Howie Kendrick had allowed the Dodgers’ second run to score in the fifth and Muncy hit a two-out, two-run single off relief pitcher Fernando Rodney in the seventh to make it 4-0.
Things were tighter in Atlanta, where the Cardinals — back in the post-season for the first time since 2015 — shook off costly defensive miscues that saw them trailing 3-1 through seven innings.
St Louis first baseman Paul Goldschmidt led off the eighth with a home run and veteran Matt Carpenter’s pinch-hit single scored another to knot the score at 3-3.
Marcell Ozuna and Kolten Wong both hit two-run doubles off Braves closing pitcher Mark Melancon in the ninth to give St Louis a 7-3 lead.
The bases were loaded with one out when Ozuna, trailing 0-2 in the count, smacked a line-drive up the third-base line that put St Louis ahead.
Wong plated two more runs with a drive up the first-base line.
“Great at-bats all the way around,” Carpenter said. “Big spots, give us a chance to get the lead and extend the lead.”
Atlanta had taken the lead in the sixth inning, snapping a 1-1 tie when Dansby Swanson’s grounder bounced off Cardinals third baseman Tommy Edman.
The ball deflected toward shortstop Paul DeJong, but his poor throw to second let a second run score on the play.
The Braves pressed again in the bottom of the ninth with home runs from Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr.
The fightback fell short and Acuna’s two-run shot did little to ease the ire of his teammates over his limp base-running effort in the seventh inning, when his lack of hustle saw him held at first base when he could have had a double off a drive down the right-field line.
“He should have been on second,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, who added that he did not have the luxury of pulling the 21-year-old from the game. “You hate to see that happen.”
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