GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Dodgers had Clayton Kershaw on the mound making his first start in more than a month. The Nationals had Blake Treinen on the mound making his first career start. Gross mismatch? Well, not for the first five innings. Kershaw and Treinen traded zeroes, each impressing in his own way as a crowd of 30,143 watched on in appreciation of this surprise pitchers' duel.
But then the wheels fell off for the Nationals in the top of the sixth, with three unearned runs crossing the plate off Treinen and reliever Craig Stammen. It only got worse after that, with the Dodgers piling on late against Ross Detwiler to open up an 8-0 lead.
The Nationals tried to mount a late rally and managed to push across three runs in the bottom of the eighth, but they stranded the bases loaded and after that went down quietly. This loss, combined with the Braves' first win in eight days, left the NL East standings flip-flopped. One night after taking over first place in the division, the Nats are now 1/2-game back, tied with the Marlins for second place.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: You have to give credit to Kershaw, who is merely the best pitcher on the planet and looked every bit like it in his first start in more than a month. But the Nationals certainly didn't take advantage of what few opportunities they had against the Dodgers ace. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position in the fourth and sixth innings alone. Four of the outs were recorded via strikeout. This remains a recurring issue for the Nationals. At times when they need merely to put bat on ball and advance a runner, they swing and miss. They've gotten away with it at times this season, but eventually that might catch up to them.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: The Nationals entered this game with no real expectations for Treinen. The 25-year-old hadn't stretched himself out more than four innings since joining Syracuse's rotation a couple weeks ago, so he didn't figure to go much deeper than that in his first career start. Turns out Treinen was far more effective than anyone could have imagined. He shut out the Dodgers over his first five innings, blowing them away with 97-98 mph sinkers early and then mixing in some sliders the second time around the order. Sitting on only 61 pitches, Treinen returned for the top of the sixth, at which point things fell apart, though not entirely his fault. Treinen did bobble a ball for a costly error, but the Dodgers never hit a ball hard off him in the inning, yet scored three runs. It was a rough ending to an otherwise outstanding debut start for Treinin.
KEY STAT: The Nationals have given up 26 unearned runs in 33 games, most in the majors.
UP NEXT: The series wraps up with a Wednesday matinee, and yet another nice pitching matchup. Stephen Strasburg takes the mound for the Nationals against ex-teammate Dan Haren, who is off to a fantastic start for the Dodgers (4-0, 2.39 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.