|Nationals, Dodgers vie for series win|
LOS ANGELES -- As far as primetime games before a national audience go, it is hard to do much better than the two best teams in baseball over the last six years.
That is the draw Sunday night when the Nationals and Dodgers clash at Dodger Stadium.
At stake is the winner of the series after the Nationals got past Clayton Kershaw for a 5-2 victory Friday night and the Dodges outlasted Stephen Strasburg in a 4-0 victory Saturday.
The 2018 versions of these teams might not be the best in baseball at this point.
Not yet anyway.
They can't even stake a claim to the best in their league and they aren't even the best in their respective divisions right now.
It remains early, though, and both teams have a knack for getting to where they need to be by October. The Dodgers have complied 568 victories since the start of the 2012 season. The Nationals are right behind them with 565.
The clubs have centered their recent runs around solid pitching, and even though both are hovering around the .500 mark toward the back half of the first month, pitching will still be the central focus of both.
The Dodgers are 9-10, while the Nationals are 10-11.
While staff aces such as Max Scherzer, Strasburg and Kershaw already have pitched in this series, Sunday's game will match the Nationals' Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 3.86 ERA) against the Dodgers' Alex Wood (0-2, 3.91).
Hellickson, in his ninth major league season, will be pitching at Dodger Stadium for the first time. Wood, an All-Star last season, will look to get on track after dealing with a bout of food poisoning just over a week ago.
Wood is 4-3 in his career against the Nationals in 10 starts with a 2.51 ERA.
Hellickson might be setting foot on the Dodger Stadium mound for the first time, but he has faced the Dodgers four times, going 0-1 with a 6.88 ERA.
After signing with the Nationals late in spring training, Hellickson will make just his second start with his new club. He gave up two runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings in his Nationals' debut Monday at New York against the Mets. Washington rallied from a five-run deficit and went on to an 8-6 victory.
Wood pitched well in his most recent outing, giving up one run on two hits over 5 1/3 innings Tuesday in San Diego. He was in line for the victory before closer Kenley Jansen blew a save by giving up two runs in the ninth inning. The Dodgers eventually won 7-3 in the 12th inning.
And after not winning a series all season before earning a three-game sweep at San Diego on their most recent trip out of town, the Dodgers will now lean on Wood to make it two consecutive series victories.
The Nationals appeared in good shape to take the first two games of the series, but the Dodgers clubbed three home runs Saturday on a night when Strasburg started. Joc Pederson and Enrique Hernandez hit solo homers off Strasburg and Cody Bellinger added a two-run homer in the eighth inning.
Hyun-Jin Ryu showed Wood how to handle the Washington offense by giving up only two hits over seven innings.