While the Los Angeles Dodgers led for the first six innings on Friday night, there was a missed opportunity to put the Washington Nationals in a larger deficit than just 1-0. By failing to do so, the Dodgers left Hyun-Jin Ryu under added pressure.
Add to it that Anibal Sanchez bounced back from a shaky start to retire 20 batters in a row and get through seven innings with just the one run allowed. Ryu’s outing was his first time facing the Nationals since carrying a no-hitter into the ninth inning.
He didn’t fare quite as well at Nationals Park, wiggling out of multiple jams to preserve the Dodgers’ slim lead. Ryu twice received help from Alex Verdugo, beginning with his diving catch down the left-field line for the first out in the sixth inning.
Then in the seventh, Adam Eaton’s flare into shallow left field fell for a game-tying RBI single with the bases loaded. Although Verdugo didn’t have a play on the catch, he threw a dart to home plate to prevent Gerardo Parra from scoring a go-ahead run.
Justin Turner’s three-run home run in the eighth inning lifted the Dodgers to a win, but Ryu also gave credit to Verdugo and his all-around talent, per Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
“He can do it all,” Ryu said of Verdugo through an interpreter. “And he made really good defensive plays, which allowed me to lower my ERA despite my pitching today.”
Once dogged by some questions over his maturity, Verdugo has been nothing short of impressive with the Dodgers this season. He’s carried over a demonstrated ability to hit at any level, but also proven to be effective in the field.
Verdugo’s six outfield assists are tied for fifth-most in the Majors, and second only to Cody Bellinger (eight) among Dodgers outfielders. Two of Verdugo’s throws this season have been particularly impressive, including preventing Kevin Kiermaier from hitting a triple.
With the 23-year-old making an impact in every facet, the Dodgers began to play Joc Pederson at first base in effort to better ensure Verdugo can remain in the lineup. Although A.J. Pollock has resumed the everyday role in center field, Verdugo has continued to receive regular playing time.