Nationals Baseball: IT'S GO TIME

Friday, October 07, 2016

IT'S GO TIME

I, of course, will be live-tweeting @harpergordek if you are interested in such things and for some reason don't follow me. Ok that should take care of that one person.

Why/How the Nats can win this game :  

Scherzer is not as good as Kershaw but he's as close as any mortal, especially in Nats park. Kershaw has been very good since coming back from injury but his strikeouts are way down, and balls in play mean things can happen. It shouldn't get out of hand and I like how the Nats bullpen is performing right now more than the Dodgers. (Fun fact : Dodgers were #1 in reliever ERA, Nationals #2), if that's even an issue. We all know Max can and will go as deep as his arm lets him. The Nats bats have a good mix of guys that have seen Kershaw several times and have been able to get some hits off him, and guys who haven't seen Kershaw a lot but are hitting well. Keep it within a run, start in on Kershaw late, push in a couple. There you go.

Why/How the Nats can lose this game :  

Max can be unhittable, but Kershaw more so, and we'd have to imagine Kershaw has more of an advantage especially given their recent performances. Kershaw has relatively cruised into the playoffs while Max has reverted back to early season Max who was at the mercy of the timing of the bombs he'd give up. If there's an errant base hit or walk on base and Max gives up a homer or two, the Nats will find themselves in a pretty big hole. Those chances increase when you realize the Dodgers are Harvey Dent against right-handers, doing good. The Nats line-up, on the other hand, is unstable right now with Ramos gone and Murphy hurt and possibly out.  Fall behind early and watch Kershaw mow the Nats down with ease.


Why/How the Nats can win the series :

The Dodgers have a huge weakness. They can't hit lefties. They are so bad against lefties that the Nats should win that Gio game, whether it is game 2 or 3.* If the Nats can win either the Max or the Roark game that would put them at least up 2-1, if not sweeping the series. This seems pretty possible given Roark's consistent quality this year and the fact that Hill (never taxed since returning from injury) and Maeda (staggered cross the finish line) are beatable. Dusty has also been very good with matching up LHRP to LHB and vice versa this year which will help negate any late inning pushes by the Dodgers. From there the Dodgers, if they are still in it, are in a bind - choose to use Kershaw on short rest, when he's less effective, just to get to G5, or they can start Urias, who'd likely only go 4-5 innings, taxing their pen. Either way it would be a huge task to win both G4 and G5 for them.

Why/How the Nats can lose the series :

Playoff games are usually lower scoring affairs because we don't see those bad starters and managers are more willing to sell out bullpens. At the same time the Nats offense is in a spot. While Severino has hit well for Ramos so far, little in his history says that is sustainable. If he hits in the playoffs, it'll be because the Nats got lucky. That likely leaves the Nats with a bottom of an order that any starter can sail through - Espy, Zimm, C, P. If that's not bad enough, we are unsure of how healthy Murphy really is. If he's hampered by his injury at all that leaves the Nats with four decent bats and basically a need for all of them to get hot at the same time. Unmentioned is the potential psychological effects of not scoring many runs for the first say 12+ innings. Outside of G5 in 2012 the Nats offense has been very quiet, scoring 3-4-0-2-7-2-1-4-2 runs in the playoffs. Start out slow and the idea that "we just can't score in the playoffs" might start running through the team, making a bad situation worse. The flip side of the Dodgers doing bad against lefties is they do well versus righties and they are going to see righty starters in 3 of the first 4 games. Plus all the Nats best relievers, Melancon, Kelley, Treinen, are righties. This could set up some troublesome late innings if the Nats pen gets overworked and some of those lefties are unavailable, or if Dusty gets a little too rigid in the 8th and 9th 

Other Thoughts

In a five game series every game is huge but this one stands out as particularly important... for the Dodgers. The Dodgers thrive at home and if they can take away the Nats home field advantage in one of these two, that's huge. Kershaw is obviously the best chance to do it. Plus Kershaw is Kershaw. He is the ace of aces. If they can't win with him, there has to be some sort of negative psychological effect**. Lose game one and to get HFA away from the Nats they have to beat a Roark everyone knows is a tough out with either Maeda or Rich Hill. They are good pitchers but Maeda does not go deep into games regularly and Hill hasn't been asked to since coming back. It'll take several pitchers doing what they need to for the Dodgers to accomplish what they need to. They likely won't be favored to do so. If they can't take that one and HFA sticks, then they have to beat a lefty, which they don't usually do, and beat Max in DC after just failing to do so in G1, to take the series.  That's a tall order

So anything can happen, it's a short series, etc. etc., but I see this game 1 as very critical. It's more so for the Dodgers, as I described above, but it's also more than just a typical bad start for the Nats. If Strasburg was healthy, they could probably weather a G1 loss as well as any team. Thanks to the Strasburg injury, however, the Nats are probably in more trouble than your average team. Ross has been fine since coming back, but just fine and lefties hit him hard. Thinking about him starting in Dodger Stadium... I don't see good things. The Nats probably don't either and really don't want to use him in a win or go home game. At the same time Max and Dusty both lean toward not using Max on short rest for that game either. I feel like the Nats are at a big disadvantage in winning that game. The Nats should be favored in both G2 and G3 (at least in my mind), so I don't think it's as critical for the Nats to win G1 as it is for the Dodgers but it's not far off because of the implications for later in the series if the Nats don't catch all the breaks.

*I think what others have said - Gio goes G2 if Nats win G1, Roark goes if they lose

**granted it could last all of two batters into the next game but still. 

UPDATE : ROSTER THOUGHTS

Basically it was the roster predicted by me with Belisle out for Michael A Taylor. This is a curious choice in my mind - Belisle had been very effective and the Nats G4 situation was precarious with one more arm in the pen. Taylor does give them the late game D replacement for Werth, and a 2nd pinch runner, so it's not useless but I would have went the other way.

34 comments:

JE34 said...

I wouldn't be disappointed if we got one hurricane-fueled rainout on Saturday. One more day for Max to rest.

I also think Severino should start tonight, sample size be damned. Lobaton batting righty is not a pretty sight.

cass said...

I'm shocked that Taylor is able to play. I thought no way he made it. Happy for him and like his D as a late innings replacement. We need lefty relievers more than righties I guess.

If anyone wants some doom and gloom about how the Dodgers might be the best team in the playoffs... http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/rating-all-of-the-remaining-playoff-teams/

(It's not all bad. The Nats are good too. But this has the Dodgers in the same class as the Cubs when factoring Postseason roster/usage.)

Kenny B. said...

I'll just swing by here to haunt everyone's dreams with a reminder of Taylor's performance against the Dodgers in Los Angeles in June. I know one series from 4 months ago is probably not the best basis for a roster decision, but man was that a rough series for him.

Ole PBN said...

I think Taylor is a waste. His defense is not stellar, on part with Revere and at least Revere isn't a fool on the bases. But its not Revere who bumped for Taylor, its Belisle. Of all the pitchers on this team, only Melancon, Kelley and Max have a lower WHIP that Belisle. He's been one of our most reliable relievers all year. So we dump a RHP who is "supposedly get rocked" by the dodgers since he's not a lefty, for Michael A. Taylor? Wtf is that? Pitching will win this series (just as Boston's stellar lineup proved last night). But nah, we need a backup outfielder who can't hit, and will replace Werth for late inning defense. Of course.

Remember when we said that Dusty tends to favor veterans over youngsters when he was hired? LOL

Ole PBN said...

@Kenny B. - oh good god, I forgot about that! For those who don't remember, Taylor capped off an 0-5 (with 5ks) evening by missing a GROUND BALL to center for a walk-in inside the park homer for Puig.

Yep - now I'm pissed.

Carl said...

Along with everything you've mentioned, I think Turner is going to be a key to this game and this series. If he can get on, steal a base or two, and get the Nats a run here or there, it'll go a long way.

I am also calling it now: two Severino home runs in this series.

John C. said...

Meh. From my experience, we'd be pissed no matter who was on the roster. We're fans. Outrage is our default setting.

I thought it would be Goodwin, not Taylor, but I fully expected the Nats to go with the seven man bullpen and the extra bench. With four off days leading up to the series and off days Sunday and possibly Wednesday, there's no real risk of blowing the bullpen out. And the extra bench guy enables them to better PH and PR or make defensive substitutions late.

Jay said...

I agree with Kenny B. I figured Michael A was a non-factor for a roster spot. Maybe Dusty figures he is due. I just don't see them beating Kershaw tonight, but who knows. Everyone I thought would win so far has not - Baltimore, Boston, Texas. I figured maybe the Giants would win but that was a maybe in my book. Also, 3/4 of starters yesterday didn't make it out of the 5th inning. Playoffs...

I also worry that Lopez got crushed by LA. We're hoping he's our long guy?? Could get ugly. Here's hoping Scherzer and Roark can make it to the 7th inning. A rain out tomorrow doesn't affect later games. They would just burn up the off day and still have game 3 and 4 on Monday and Tuesday. They burn up off days in the postseason instead of pushing the entire series back.

Harper said...

JE34 - I doubt they'd move games - they'd play early Sunday in DC then fly out play late Monday in LA. Severino is starting. I think they said that. I imagine he'll get all lefties.

cass - 2nd best team in playoffs... as long as they don't have to face a LHP

KB - since you don't mention it I'll assume he went 12 for 15 with 4 homers (sees PBN's comment) Ok 12 for 17.

OL PBN - My speculation is that Murphy still can't run well and they plan to pull him late in games for pinch runners if he gets on. In that case they need a second PR other than Difo.

Carl - noted your call. But if he hits 3 you lose.

Harper said...

JC - Also with Max/Roark it's quite possible bullpen is not just "not blown out" but totally rested come G3. Of course if Gio is Gio and Ross gets hit there's a G4 problem but I can see taking the gamble. I just wouldn't do it bc one bad outing throws everything out a whack. I don't think it's the conservative play

Jay - Some early pulls yesterday though. The game is changing a bit - at least in the playoffs.

I don't worry about the long guy - they are generally in if the game is out of hand anyway.

cass said...

Hopefully the NE wind will keep up for the game and keep Scherzer's fly balls in the park.

https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/orthographic=-72.08,41.12,3000

Roark pitching game 2. I don't like it but I'm not surprised.

Alexander Freeman said...

Hey everyone, I'm a college student starting a casual blog on both the Nationals and Orioles since they're my favorite teams and if anyone wants to check it out here's the URL:

http://dmvbaseball.blogspot.com/

I apologize if I'm stepping on your toes Harper, but I don't think anyone will find anything I say more useful than the depth you put into your posts. I'm just posting my two cents on how the Orioles and Nationals do each game/season. Thanks to anyone who gives it a look!

Ric said...

Old PBN said: " But its not Revere who bumped for Taylor, its Belisle."

No. If Baker had not put Taylor on the roster, it would have been Revere or Goodwin. Baker had already decided on a seven-man bullpen. So it was a matter of a last bench player. It WAS Revere who was bumped.

Ryan said...

I'm surprised Taylor made it, but would much rather have him than Revere or Goodwin. Belisle seemed kind of underrated this year, he filled the Stammen type role well.

Sammy Kent said...

So they've announced Tanner as the Game 2 starter. Not necessarily a mistake, but I still would have rather it been Gio. If it goes to Game 5, I want Gio out there instead of Max. You know darn well this is the only circumstance where I would prefer ANYONE over Max, particularly our volatile Mr. Gonzalez. But these are the most unusual of circumstances. I don't think three lefties in the bullpen is enough. Should have included Sean Burnett. If it were allowable I'd have signed Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Ron Guidry, Sparky Lyle, and John Franco to ten day contracts.

Let's go get 'em. Section 236. Row R.

cass said...

Strasburg threw 25 pitches in the pen! Another bullpen on Monday. Says he's healed.

Let's win this thing and get Stras a start in the NLCS.

Derf said...

I think the reasoning behind Tanner in game 2 is the fact that LA is throwing a lefty against us. Loby can't hit lefties and is only useful if Gio pitches or Severino breaks his leg.

Robot said...

@cass - YESYESYES!!! A Max/Stras/Tanner combo would be lethal in the NLCS.

(Against the Giants, of course, since it's an even-numbered year.)

Fries said...

Trea, Bryce, Werth, Murph...I actually kinda like that lineup. Lots of foul balls from 2-4 in the order, get Kershaw's count up FAST

Robot said...

AAAARRRGGGHHH DOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!# RARRRRGGGGABLAAAARGAAAAA!!!11!!oneoneone!

...

::ahem::


Okay, 0-1. We'll get'em tomorrow.

Sammy Kent said...

The guy we hit best was Kershaw--except for Trea Turner, who looked just like a wide-eyed rookie against him. The bats laid down for the LA bullpen. Left the tying run stranded in scoring position twice. Murphy's attempted steal was just inexplicable. No words for it. This game was a story of opportunities squandered.

Dave said...

Same old sorry song. Putrid at bats with RISP. Espi is a strikeout machine. Max gives up the long ball too often. We will see if they have anything in the scrotum the next few games. Glass Jaw Gio will have to pitch than he has in years. Not doom, but not good. I think Dusty is too friggin' stubborn by placing Espi anywhere but 8th. He is an absolute wasted at bat. This reminds me of how long it took him to move Zim out of the 4th spot...

Alan Wiecking said...

Can't face the best pitcher in baseball and strand 8. Danny had 6 by himself; might be time for Drew to start at short. Other than that black hole, offense looked good.

Chaos

Zimmerman11 said...

A lot of talk about DC not being a great sports town (some of it from me), but last night the crowd was great. On their feet in 2 strike counts, giving Kershaw hell on throw overs to first and on conferences with the catcher on the mound. Big time noise when Nats threatened to score. And most importantly NOT letting the LA fans start chants in our house. Big Ups to section 116. Tough loss but we had a real shot vs Kershaw in GM1. Let's go get Game 2 boys! I wanna come back for the NLCS!

I wanna be the first to blame Dusty. Not sending Trea one inning, letting Murph try and steal the next? I'm not happy TT didn't lay down a bunt in any of 5 at bats... this is on you DB. You need to do better in gM2. Though 9 LOB is the story. Won't win the series like that.

Zimmerman11 said...

Game 2 postponed, maybe that'll let Dusty think about his decision to start libation over severing vs the LHP...

Anonymous said...

@Zimmerman What? You're telling us Dusty was drinking before he decided to cut off the arm of one of his lh pitchers?

Josh Higham said...

@Anonymous You know, if you want to get that kind of info, Zimmerman would be a go-to guy.

G Cracka X said...

Was in Section 224 for Game 1. Its the most energy I have ever witnessed in person for a Nats game, but still didn't seem to have the same energy as an Orioles-Yankees playoff game. Also, the Mets fans seemed more energized in their wildcard game (though admittedly I watched that on TV instead of in person, so not apples-to-apples).

Tough loss. HFA now gone, even if the Nats win Game 2. Zim looked strong, as did Murphy. I agree it was odd to see him try to steal, but he wasn't out by a lot; catcher made a great throw.

Speaking of catchers, how many mound conferences did the Dodgers have?? Seemed like they averaged >2 per inning.

Zimmerman11 said...

Lol! Damn ed autocorrect! Lobaton, Severino... I'll admit Ive had a few libations tday to sooth the pain from that GM1 loss...

Murphy was out by a lot...and has a sore buttock... the kid shoulda gone, not the slow guy with butt pain.

Fries said...

Well Lobaton didn't turn out too bad afterall...did not see that coming

Josh Higham said...

Loby with the season saver. Anyone expect that? Anyone? No? Well, that's OK.

Zimmerman11 said...

Harper would say DB made a bad choice and it turned out for the best, but it was still a bad decision. Happy to have GM2... I do NOT understand the start there after Severino looked good yesterday and given Loby's splits. But the sun shines on every dog's rear end some days.

Neither team did their bullpens any favors in teh first two agames, and we're going to play the next two days. Go get GM3 vs Maeda, boys... make them bring back Kershaw on very short rest!

Anonymous said...

Lobaton was 4-4 against Hill coming in, actually. Of course he made a terrible defensive play on Harper's throw to the plate on what should have been an easy out, so he had something to make up.

Sammy Kent said...

Fun game to be there for...after Loby's dinger! I didn't expect his heroics, but I wasn't surprised either. He's very capable. Remember the big comeback game in Atlanta last year? Loby got the whole thing started with what seemed to be a pretty inauspicious two- or three-run homer in the sixth inning I think. Murphy's RBI hit was huge, and Jayson Werth especially played some good defense on some hot shots that the wind was messing with pretty good.

I'm happy to be playing again so soon. No time for them to get their heads back. Let's summon our inner Homer O'dell and kick 'em while they're down.