WASHINGTON (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers’ explosive lineup may be getting even stronger.
Rookie catcher Will Smith homered and drove in six runs, leading Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers over the Washington Nationals 9-3 on Saturday.
Playing in his 10th major league game, the 24-year-old Smith homered in the third inning, hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth, doubled home a run in the sixth, and broke the game open in the seventh with a bases-loaded double off the wall in left-center.
“We have a long lineup as it is, but when you get a guy (at catcher) who can turn the lineup over or who can drive runs in, it’s just really tough to navigate,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “To do what he does behind the plate, a two-way player, it’s pretty special.”
Smith is hitting .345 with four homers and 12 RBIs, including a walk-off home run against the Rockies on June 23 and Saturday’s effort in a game the Dodgers trailed in early.
“So far, I’ve done pretty well in bigger situations,” Smith said. “That gives you the confidence in the next situations to say, ‘Yeah, I can do this.'”
Kershaw (9-2) settled in after allowing two first-inning runs, giving up three hits while striking out nine with three walks through the sixth.
Yan Gomes homered for Washington, which has lost three straight for first time since a five-game skid May 19-23.
The Nationals used their first-ever opener, with left-hander Matt Grace retiring all six Dodgers he faced, including four left-handed batters. Grace tired after two innings and right-hander Joe Ross (0-3) allowed a homer to the first batter he faced and gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings.
“I felt good physically but just leaving the ball over the plate up in the zone and they made me pay for it,” Ross said. “Up in the zone is not where you want to be, especially with these guys.”
Martinez said he spent this week considering whether or not to use an opener.
“For me, this was a perfect opportunity because of the way (the Dodgers) lineup is structured, to do that,” he said.
Max Muncy and Corey Seager had two hits each for the Dodgers and Muncy scored three runs.
The Nationals took a 2-0 lead in the first on Adam Eaton’s RBI triple and Juan Soto’s sacrifice fly.
Smith’s homer in the third made it 2-1.
Muncy’s RBI single tied the game in the fourth and the Dodgers took the lead on Seager’s double. He went to third on an error and it was 4-2 after Smith’s sacrifice fly.
Smith is the first Los Angeles Dodgers (1958-present) rookie catcher with a six-RBI game, surpassing Mike Piazza’s previous high of five in a game (twice, the last on June 22, 1993).
The Nationals recalled INF Adrián Sanchez from Double-A Harrisburg and optioned RHP Kyle Barraclough to Harrisburg. Sanchez has gone 4 for 20 (.200) in 18 games over three stints for the Nationals this season. Barraclough went 1-2 with a 6.66 ERA in 33 games out of Washington’s bullpen.
Dodgers: Placed RHP Ross Stripling (biceps tendinitis) on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to July 25. He left his Wednesday start with a sore neck. “Obviously, it started out in the neck and then just probably compromised his delivery, which got into the bicep,” manager Dave Roberts said. . INF/OF Enrique Hernandez (hand) is likely headed for the IL. “Where he’s at in terms of not being able to swing the bat, we’ve got to make sure he gets back to healthy,” Roberts said.
Dodgers: RHP Walker Buehler (9-1, 3.23) allowed four hits in seven scoreless innings and struck out seven batters in a no-decision against the Nationals May 11 in Los Angeles.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (13-4, 3.37) has won six straight starts, pitching to a 2.39 ERA over that stretch, while striking out 44 batters and walking 10.
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