Two things are true about yesterday. 1) Gio Gonzalez was at best mediocre in a game where by all rights he should have been dominant. 2) Gio Gonzalez gave us the best starting pitching performance of the playoffs so far from either team. Yay?
If the Nats do take the series, either today or Thursday, something will happen and something won't. What won't happen is the national perception of the Nationals and Dusty won't change. The Nats don't suddenly become a credible playoff team by beating another consistently disappointing playoff team. They'll have to beat the Cubs (or Giants) to get that monkey off their back. Dusty doesn't suddenly become a winner winning an NLDS with the team with more wins. As we discussed earlier, he needs to win a World Series. So, if the Nats win don't look around to the media or people outside the area and scream "How do you like me now!" ("You like that?") because the answer will invariably be "Exactly the same as I liked you before"
What will happen though is internally everyone will feel tons better. From fans down to the clubhouse attendants. Making the playoffs is hurdle one. Winning in the playoffs is hurdle two and a hurdle the Nats have yet to get over. Win this series and winning the next one, be in the NLCS or next year, seems a lot more possible. Dusty, already beloved for... well pretty much for being Dusty, has his place in Nats history set in stone, doing what Davey and Matt Williams, didn't and couldn't do, respectively. The bigger wins may be necessary to impress the judges but the franchise and everyone involved needs this win to prove it to themselves.
So what's up for today? We'll find out in a few hours. What makes the
most sense to me is Urias vs Ross. I don't see how the Dodgers start
Kershaw today. I don't see how you look at what happened on Friday and
think "Yeah, Give me more of that. But on short rest!" He wasn't just a
little off. He was terrible and had to battle not to blow a game handed
to him. If the Dodgers are lucky they get to Game 5 and he's back. As
for the Nats, they seem pretty committed to going with Ross and Lopez
today. Ross you've been stretching out. Lopez you've been preparing to
relieve. While all pitching is pitching there is different preparation
and mindsets needed to start as opposed to relieving, so this matters.
Also you hope to use as few pitchers as possible, a good Ross outing
could go 6 maybe even 7. Lopez you are probably pulling after 3-4
regardless. I really don't see the issue here. Start Ross, pull when he
stops being effective.
I think the thing I notice most about this series is outside of the starting pitching, the Nats feel like the Nats. The last time the Nats were in the playoffs in 2014, they felt overmatched and unprepared. They had all the pressure and none of the fun. This team feels better. They aren't playing their best ball, no, but there's no sense of looming defeat. Maybe it helps playing the Dodgers instead of the Cardinals or Giants but whatever the reason, this series feels more... right. Even Game 1 felt like a missed opportunity, not a game they didn't have a chance in.
I'm not going to lie. I have this game going to the Dodgers. I like Urias more than Ross. I like the desperation of the Dodgers at home, more than the looseness of the Nats on the road. But I'd rather be wrong. Prove me wrong Nats, prove me wrong.