The Washington Nationals continued a pattern of excruciating playoff losses in their short history, losing Game One of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-3.
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer delivers against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball’s National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Ace pitcher Max Scherzer delivered six innings, but gave up two homers in the first three innings and put his team in a 4-0 hole before fans’ nachos got cold. Despite an otherwise stellar season, Scherzer has exhibited a propensity to occasionally give up the long ball, and this time it was his and his team’s undoing. After giving up a monstrous shot to Dodgers rookie Corey Seager in the first inning, he allowed a two-run shot to Justin Turner, the only right-handed batter in the Dodgers lineup.
Scherzer settled in after Turner’s blast and retired the ensuing eight batters. Turner was the next Dodger to reach base, with a single in the sixth inning, but was stranded at third with the score 4-3. Scherzer was then pulled for a pinch hitter, Wilmer Difo, in the bottom of the inning, having allowed four runs on five hits with five strikeouts in his 11th career postseason start.
Washington Nationals’ scores on a single hit by teammate Daniel Murphy against Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning in Game 2 of baseball’s National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, in Washington. Behind the plate are Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal (9) and home plate umpire Chris Guccione (68). Nationals won 5-2. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Dodgers starter and three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw was uncharacteristically hittable in his five innings, giving up three runs himself, but the Dodgers bullpen matched the Nationals ‘pen; each held the opposing lineup scoreless. As hittable as Kershaw was, Washington just didn’t come through with the big, timely hit. As a team, Washington struck out nine times and left 11 runners stranded, totally unacceptable in playoff baseball.
Missed opportunities seemed to have been the theme of the night. The Nationals had the bases loaded with two outs in the second against Clayton Kershaw and did not score. Washington scored twice in the third, and had two more on with two down until Danny Espinosa killed the rally with a strikeout. They had two runners on base with one out in the fifth inning, but again couldn’t find a timely hit.
Washington Nationals’ Jayson Werth swings and misses for the final out against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of a baseball National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, in Washington. Behind the plate is Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal. Los Angeles won 4-3. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Game Two was scheduled for Oct. 8, but was postponed for a day as the remnants of Hurricane Matthew were felt up and down the Eastern seaboard.
Game Two is now a must-win for the Nationals. It would be a tall task to go to Los Angeles on no days of rest, win two straight, and then come home and risk facing Clayton Kershaw again in Game 5.
Game One was there for the taking, but dwindled into a missed opportunity. At this point of the season, players have to put away their obvious nervousness and come through with clutch at-bats when it matters.