Friday, October 14, 2016

MLB Playoffs: Days 7 and 8

After a day off so that the Nats and Dodgers could fly back from Los Angeles to Washington, my two favorite teams in all of baseball squared off at Nats Park one last time.

It was quite a game.  The Nats took an early 1-0 lead behind their ace Max Scherzer, and held onto it until the top of the 7th, when Joc Pedersen hit a home run to tie the score.  That was all for Scherzer -- but then time seemed to stop for the Nats, as they wheeled out one ineffective pitcher after another.  By the time the Nats got to bat again, they had used 6 pitchers in one-half inning -- breaking the Giants' post-season record from the night before, they had given up four runs, and they trailed 4-1, thanks in large part to a bases-clearing triple by Justin Turner with two on and two out.

But the Nats quickly got back into the game with a walk and a pinch-hit home run from Chris Heisey.  When another pinch hitter laced a single to right, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought in his closer, Kenley Jansen.  Jansen did his job, striking out Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon with the tying run on third to end the game.  And then Jansen pitched the eighth, and got the first batter in the ninth.  By now, however, Jansen had thrown well over 40 pitches -- far more than usual -- and he was starting to labor.  He walked Bryce Harper, and then he walked Jayson Werth to put the tying run in scoring position with one out and the Nats' best hitter -- Daniel Murphy -- coming to the plate.

The situation looked grim for L.A., because the rest of their bullpen had either been used or was useless.  But Roberts had a secret weapon:  he brought out Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers' Ace, who had thrown over 100 pitches two days before in Game Four.  Kershaw hadn't pitched in relief since 2009, and here he was facing Murphy with everything on the line.

The folks in Natstown went nuts -- standing, screaming, and pleading for a hit.  They didn't get it.  On the second pitch, Murphy popped up.  That left only pinch hitter Wilmer Difo, who never had a chance.  Kershaw made him the 12th Nat to strike out in the game, and this long, hard-fought DS was finally over.  For the series as a whole, the Nats outscored the Dodgers 24 to 19, but the Dodgers won three one-run games:  4-3 in Game One, 6-5 in Game Four, and 4-3 in Game Five.  That was the difference -- that, and the fact that the Nats struck out 63 times in only five games.

And so the Dodgers head to Wrigley Field for a showdown with History, while the Nats head off to contemplate their 5-9 record in post-season play, their third loss in five years in a DS where they had home field advantage, and their second Game Five loss at home since 2011.

Washington 3 - 4 Los Angeles

Chicago beat San Francisco 3-1
Los Angeles beat Washington 3-2

Toronto beat Texas 3-0
Cleveland beat Boston 3-0

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