Pitching had been the least of the team's worries during a seven-game winning streak that saw them outscore opponents, 55-12. But the Washington hitters tormented Dodger pitchers throughout this three-game series, and it happened in a big way once more during Sunday's finale at RFK Stadium.
Starter Jae Seo had been consistent in recent outings, but the right-hander found all kinds of trouble on Sunday, lasting only 2 2/3 innings as the Nationals scored six quick runs en route to a 10-4 victory over the Dodgers before 30,348.
Nick Johnson led a four-homer barrage for Washington with two long solo shots. Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Zimmerman also homered as part of a 16-hit attack. Los Angeles came into Washington on Friday having won seven straight games and its pitchers having allowed just one earned run in 41 innings.
But Washington hitters banged out 40 hits in winning two of the three games. The Nationals, who've had problems hitting all season, twice scored 10 runs despite never having done that at home since the team moved to Washington before the 2005 season.
Dodgers manager Grady Little said Seo's problems helped put the team in an early hole. The Nationals knocked Seo out with a five-run, six-hit third inning to take a quick 6-0 lead. Seo allowed six runs on seven hits in his 2 2/3 innings.
"Today, the game was dictated by what we got out of our starting pitching," Little said. "His number one thing is to have good command and to attack the hitters, and today he could do neither."
Seo labored through 59 pitches, walking three and striking out three while never seeming to find the necessary command.
"I started out all right," he said through an interpreter. "But in the third inning, I had a little trouble controlling my ball. I'm not a fastball pitcher, so every time I give up five or six runs, my control is a problem."
Seo said that his fastball and changeup were both a little high, and that he simply didn't have his best control.
"If I get my control back, everything's fine," Seo said.
Former starter Odalis Perez came on long relief and also had problems, giving up two runs on four hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Little clearly didn't want to address the issue of replacing Seo in the starting rotation, possibly with Perez, and said simply that the team will make whatever moves the Dodgers need to win games.
Perez, however, wouldn't come out and say that he'd rather go elsewere to regain a starting spot. He said he'd be fine with remaining in Los Angeles, but he wants to get back to the starting rotation.
"I prefer to be a starter," Perez said. "I don't want to be in the bullpen all year."
The Dodgers got a strong effort from Derek Lowe in Saturday's 3-1 win over Washington, but Brett Tomko couldn't make it out of the fifth inning on Friday and Seo couldn't find success in this game against a newly awakened Nationals offense.
Washington starter Ramon Ortiz (3-4), meanwhile, kept the Dodgers in check, just as Livan Hernandez had on Friday and Shawn Hill did on Saturday. The Nationals broke the game open with the five-run third, sparked by Ryan Zimmerman's three-run shot. They smashed three extra-base hits in that inning and took a 6-0 lead.
The Dodgers managed just a bloop single off Ortiz in the first five innings before breaking through in the sixth to score three runs. Nomar Garciaparra delivered an RBI single that was followed by Olmedo Saenz's long two-run homer to left.
The Nationals held a 9-3 lead before the Dodgers threatened in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Kenny Lofton walked and later scored when Washington reliever Jon Rauch hit Andre Ethier with the bases loaded. Russell Martin later came up with two out and the bases loaded; he lined a shot to center that Washington's Marlon Byrd made a great diving catch on.
Ortiz (3-4) won his third straight start with a three-run, four-hit effort over seven innings. Little said Ortiz's ability to establish offspeed pitches early fouled up his team's timing throughout.
Matt Kemp went 1-for-4 in his Major League debut. The Dodgers center fielder singled off Rauch in the eighth on the first pitch. Kemp struck out on his first three at-bats against Ortiz, but said he gained more confidence in his third at-bat.
"The first three at-bats, I was a little impatient," Kemp said. "I found some good pitches ... on my fourth at-bat, and I got a hit."
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.