By Beth Harris
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES — Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth homered, and the Washington Nationals moved within one victory of winning a postseason series for the first time, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-3 Monday for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five NL playoff.
Four relievers combined for 4 2/3 shutout innings, putting the Nationals in position to wrap up the NL Division Series on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
Playing 23 hours after the Nationals tied the series at home in a rain-postponed Game 2, Rendon hit a two-run homer in a four-run third that chased Kenta Maeda. Werth added a solo shot off closer Kenley Jansen in a breakaway four-run ninth.
NL East champions for the third time in five years, the Nationals were unable to advance during their two previous trips to the postseason. They lost in the Division Series to St. Louis in 2012 and San Francisco in 2014.
The franchise has won one playoff series — the Montreal Expos beat Philadelphia following the strike-shortened 1981 season before losing to the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.
The team moved from Montreal to Washington before the 2005 season.
The Dodgers again struggled against left-handed pitching, a problem throughout the season when they had a major league-worst .213 average against lefties.
Four Washington lefty relievers stymied the Dodgers in the first two games. Facing lefty starter Gio Gonzalez in Game 3, they got three runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings.
The only Dodgers hitter with proven success against Gonzalez was catcher Carlos Ruiz, and he came through with a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the fifth that cut their deficit to 4-3.
After that, the Dodgers mustered just a pair of singles off a Nats’ bullpen that included lefties Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez, and didn’t advance a runner past first base. Solis wound up with the win.
It was still 4-3 when Werth homered on a 1-0 pitch from Jansen leading off the ninth. Ryan Zimmerman added a two-run double that bounced off right fielder Josh Reddick’s glove at the wall — the hit scored Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper, who both walked.
Jansen, the team’s all-time saves leader, was yanked. Los Angeles used all seven of its relievers in the game.
Maeda gave up four runs and five hits in three innings, struck out four and walked two in his first career start against Washington. The Japanese right-hander who won a team-leading 16 games is one of seven rookies on the Dodgers’ NLDS roster.
Maeda found trouble right away against the Nats. He loaded the bases in a 28-pitch first inning on consecutive two-out walks. After a mound visit from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Maeda threw three strikes in a row to retire Zimmerman and get out of trouble.
Dodgers rookie Corey Seager continued his first-inning success in the series, hitting an RBI double off the wall for a 1-0 lead after homering in the first inning of Games 1 and 2.
Maeda retired the side in the second, striking out two, before wilting in the third. He opened the inning by giving up four hits in five batters.
Werth’s RBI double in the right-field corner tied the game 1-all. Harper hit an RBI single and Rendon followed with his two-run shot to the left-field pavilion for a 4-1 lead.
COOLING DOWN: Murphy went 0 for 4 with a strikeout and a walk after going 4 for 6 in the first two games. Last year’s NLCS MVP came in hitting .408 with three homers and five RBIs in seven postseason games against the Dodgers.
NIGHTMARE IN THE DAYTIME: The Dodgers were 28-16 in day games during the regular season, tops in the majors. They averaged over half a run more during day games than at night. Game 4 on Tuesday is another daytime start.
HIT ‘EM HERE: Nationals SS Danny Espinosa got hit by a pitch from Maeda in the third inning, the third time he’s been hit, which is the most in NLDS history. He trails Shane Victorino, who was hit four times in the 2013 ALDS against Boston for most in a division series in major league history.
DUSTY NOT DIRTY: Nationals manager Dusty Baker got his nickname as a kid playing football in his backyard, which was covered in green grass except for one spot.
“It always seems that I ended up in the dirt spot and always got dirty,” he said. “But my mother didn’t want to call me Dirty so she called me Dusty. It stuck and all of my friends called me Dusty since I was a kid. The only people who called me Johnnie were my teachers. If somebody calls me Johnnie B., it kind of gets my attention. If they call me Dusty, I just wave.”
CHAMPIONSHIP BATTERY: 1988 World Series MVP Orel Hershiser tossed out the ceremonial first pitch to Steve Sax, his teammate during that championship season. The Dodgers haven’t been to the World Series since then.
UP NEXT: Dodgers rookie Julio Urias (5-2, 3.39 ERA) is scheduled to start Game 4, but the Dodgers could bring back Game 1 winner Clayton Kershaw on short rest with their season on the line. Urias made two starts against the Nationals this season. He allowed two runs and six hits in five innings of a no-decision at home on June 22. The left-hander allowed one run in four innings on July 21 at Washington. The Dodgers won both games.
The Nationals have yet to announce their starter. It’s possible RHP Joe Ross would start Game 4 and Game 1 loser Max Scherzer would take the mound if Game 5 is necessary.