Dodgers’ bullpen falters against Nats, sending NLDS back to L.A.

When Dave Roberts took the ball out of Rich Hill’s hands, he turned it over to a bullpen full of question marks.

The Los Angeles manager turned to starter Kenta Maeda for a successful inning-plus of relief. Then Dodgers came apart.

Hill couldn’t make it out of the third inning, and a revolving assortment of relievers allowed five runs in a 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals in Game 4 Monday that tied the NL Division Series at 2.

Pedro Baez gave up a three-run home run to Ryan Zimmerman in the fifth that busted open the game, and his teammates couldn’t crack Nationals ace Max Scherzer to close out the series.

Instead, the Dodgers will turn to Walker Buehler in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Wednesday back in Los Angeles and hope the young right-hander can continue his yearlong success in the biggest of pressure situations thus far. Buehler tossed six scoreless innings to beat the Nationals in Game 1.

All hands on deck

With Los Angeles up 2-1 in the series, all options potentially were available for Roberts on Monday, including Clayton Kershaw, who memorably closed out the Game 5 in 2017 in Washington to send the Dodgers to the NL Championship Series. After Hill walked four in 2 2/3 innings, Roberts turned to Maeda, Julio Urias, Baez, Ross Stripling and Dustin May with less than favourable results.

Maeda struck out two in 1 1/3 innings, then came out as pinch-hitter A.J. Pollock struck out for the 10th time in 12 playoff at-bats.

Urias came in and got charged with three runs and Baez served up the 97 mph fastball that Zimmerman sent over the centre-field fence.

Between the third and fifth innings, Dodgers pitchers allowed more runs than they had in any of the first three games of the series. Stripling then had a wild pitch that helped the Nationals tack on another run in the sixth, and the Dodgers came up empty after loading the bases with one out in the seventh.

Absent a solo home run by Justin Turner in the first, the lack of clutch hitting couldn’t dig the Dodgers out of the deep hole their pitchers put them in. That included two fruitless innings against a Washington bullpen imploded a day earlier.