The Los Angeles Dodgers are on a mission to return to the World Series for a third straight October, but the Washington Nationals are attempting to pull off an upset in the 2019 NLDS. The Nats pushed the heavily favored Dodgers to the brink of elimination by forcing a Game 5 in the best-of-five NLDS. The Dodgers send Walker Buehler to the mound at Dodger Stadium against Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, who is pitching on short rest.

LA Dodgers Walker Buehler NLDS Washington Nationals
LA Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler celebrates a strikeout against the Washington Nationals in NLDS Game 1 at Dodger Stadium. (Image: Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

The wild-card winning Washington Nationals are one game away from upsetting the best team in the National League. The LA Dodgers ran away with the NL West title and won a franchise-high 106 games this season. The Dodgers were one of the favorites to win the World Series since spring training.

The Nationals forced a Game 5 with a tremendous 6-1 victory over the Dodgers in NLDS Game 4. Max Scherzer gutted out 109 pitches and held the Dodgers to a solo home run from Justin Turner. Zimmerman crushed a three-run blast to put the Nats ahead for good.

NLDS Game 5: Washington Nationals (93-69) vs LA Dodgers (106-56)
Game Time: 5:02pm PT
Location: Dodger Stadium, LA
Starters: Walker Buehler (14-4, 3.26 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (18-6, 3.32 ERA)
Money Line: LAD -160 / WAS +150
Run Line: LAD -1.5

Buehler pitched the NLDS series opener for the LA Dodgers, winning Game 1 and holding the Nats to one hit in six innings. The Dodgers coasted to a 6-0 victory.

Strasburg won Game 2 to even the series at 1-1, which included a relief appearance from Scherzer. Strasburg is pitching on short rest, and Nats fans hope he fares better than Justin Verlander’s short rest game with the Astros in Game 4.

According to William Hill, the LA Dodgers slipped to 7/2 odds to win the World Series. The Washington Nationals improved to 8/1 odds to win the championship.

Dodgers Nationals Zig Zag

This side of the NLDS followed a classic zig-zag pattern that is more common in the NBA playoffs.

The LA Dodgers won Game 1 at home in the City of Angels. The Nationals stole Game 2 over the weekend, 4-2, to even the series. The Dodgers won Game 3 in Washington during a 10-4 pummeling. The Nats didn’t back down in Game 4, and staved off elimination thanks to Scherzer and Zimmerman.

The pressure is on the Dodgers to win Game 5. The Nats weren’t even supposed to make the playoffs after Bryce Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies failed to advance to the postseason, while the Nationals are one win away from the NLCS.

Wake Up Cody

NL MVP candidate Cody Bellinger has been quiet in the postseason. Bellinger crushed 47 home runs in the regular season, but has zero home runs and no RBI through the first four games of the NLDS. He’s hitting only .200 with just three hits in 15 at bats.

“Just have to keep grinding,” said Bellinger.

“We always try to evaluate the process and not get caught up in results,” said Dodgers batting coach Rob Van Scoyoc. “Just reminded him to focus on that, and not get caught up in if he is actually getting hits or not. Just to lock in on his at-bats and execute.”

Bellinger struggled in the World Series the last two seasons hitting .114. The Dodgers patiently await for their All-Star to turn around his October woes.

“Belli’s grinding and trying to get locked in,” said teammate Justin Turner. “He wants to be that MVP guy for us that he’s been all year. And that at-bat kind of unlocked him.”

Buehler and Friends

The Dodgers have multiple aces they can rely on in the postseason. Fans have faith in Buehler because he isn’t fazed by the added pressure. But by chance he cannot get the job done, there’s Kershaw waiting to jump into the fracas.

“It’s kind of all hands on deck and go as long as you can and try and get out of it as clean as you can,” said Buehler. “So we’re excited. I think the thing that’s kind of lost in playoff baseball is that it’s really fun and I think the pressure and things like that, if you spin it in your head the right way, it can make it more fun. So that’s our plan.”

The Dodgers went 2-0 last October with Buehler pitching elimination games.

“There’s not a lot to it. We got to win a game. If we don’t, we go home,” said Buehler.

Buehler will be up against a tough pitcher with Strasburg. Over his short career, Strasburg boasts a 0.64 ERA in the postseason. He even tossed three scoreless innings in relief during the NL wild-card victory against the Milwaukee Brewers.

“We’re at home with Buehler going,” said Bellinger. “We like our chances.”