Nationals Baseball: One to go

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

One to go

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.

42 comments:

Nattydread said...

Great one Harper. Nats are really playing as a team. Contributions up and down the lineup. It was nice to see a four run outburst where Turner, Werth, Harper and Rendon went pretty much back to back (without Murphy). Good at bats, contact. And then they repeated much later. On the road, with their backs pretty close to the wall.

WiredHK said...

I think the Dodgers will go with Kershaw. I'm neutral on whether or not it's the right move, since I don't have access to him and knowledge of his medical situation. If he's healthy (he certainly was very good at the end of the season) and if Game 1 was just an "off" performance (he's much better at home vs the road), you'd probably be better served pitching him at home against the Nats "#4" (really #5) to force a game 5. There's no tomorrow and it's not like Max looked un-hittable.

When you're facing elimination, play to win today so that you can figure tomorrow out later.

Harper said...

WHK - that is the crux. If they think Kershaw is fine then yeah go for it. I just can't think that seeing what I say Friday and knowing this is short rest.

Jay said...

I think it will be Kershaw. I do wonder about his back. He looked more than just rusty to me, but he is Kershaw. I do worry that Ross and Lopez are going to struggle. The Dodgers pretty much crushed Lopez earlier this year. Believe it or not, I think today is the day we may miss Strasburg most. Hopefully, they can find a way. Game 5 by no means is a given win, so let's finish it off today.

Oh by the way. The living legend of Bumgarner gave up what was almost the decisive runs in an elimination game via homer by the other pitcher. I know Arieta can actually hit, but still that should never happen in the playoffs.

Fries said...

I would love for them to throw out Kershaw. Like you said Harp, I think the Dodgers win this game no matter what just based on HFA and desperation. But if we get Hill or Urias in Game 5, I like that way better than Kershaw...

BornInDC said...

I'm hoping it's Kershaw today, because: (1) On Friday he was not KERSHAW and the Nats were hitting him, (2) bringing him back without full rest decreases the likelihood of him pitching like KERSHAW and (3) there is no chance it will be Max against KERSHAW in game 5.

Jay: The really crazy part to me is that Arrieta's homer ended up not driving in the decisive runs of the game. The 8th and 9th innings last night were just incredible to watch in real-time. I think you could try to simulate the game last night with a computer starting with the bottom of the 8th and almost never end up with a 5-5 tie at the end of the 9th. Chapman knocked out of the game after pitching 1/3 of an inning? Seriously?

Dusty's Toothpick said...

Does Danny start today as well? I mean he is really, really, really struggling at the plate. Missing by feet on breaking stuff, and although I am his biggest fan defensively how many AB's do you let him get nothing besides HBP. Hopefully he starts and get 1 or 2 AB's to show Dusty something, otherwise bring Drew back in.

JD said...

I think they'll go with Kershaw (if he's up for it). It's what people expect and easily defensible. Managers will almost always take the defensible choice if not the best. If they lose, well they put their best in. If they lose with Urias on the other hand...

Mythra said...

I'm going against the stream on this one. I think you get Kershaw today and it's a few more innings of Friday. Ross, despite this being his first playoffs, is one of those guys who never shows the pressure. Nats have momentum on their side and after they crushed Jensen last night, the mythos of the un-hittable closer has been lifted. I think it'll be close, but I think the Nats have gotten some good looks at most of the Dodger's bullpen, so nobody there will fool them.

My hope is that a tired and not 100% healthy Kershaw, plus a tired Dodger's bullpen, and momentum from last night's win all combines for the Nats ending it tonight. And Dusty needs to start Drew at SS, but likely won't if lefty Kershaw is starting.

I still like the idea of Max vs Hill for Game 5, if needed. That has to be advantage Nats.

Adam VB said...

I think the Nats are taking this one easy today. I foresee Urias pitching a dud as he's so young and in his 1st playoff start and the Dodgers bats will continue to look lost up there.

mike k said...

Way to go Espi, keep leaning that forearm out over the plate. Good defense and HBP, that's the way!

Anyone else think yesterday's HBP was a strike? I do. Not that I'm complaining.

Oh, are we talking about Kershaw? I don't know what I would do if I were Roberts. I don't really buy the "elimination game" argument because both games would be elimination games and he's only pitching one. If you can't win without him, you won't win game 5 if he pitches game 4. So that suggests you go with longer rest. But I heard he's much better at home...so yea I don't know what I would do.

JD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G Cracka X said...

@mike k a reason for the Dodgers to pitch Kershaw today is that they can use Hill in G5, whom they presumably trust more than Urias in either G4 or 5.

JD said...

@mike k It was a strike, and Danny made no effort to get out of the way, so that's two reasons why he shouldn't have got the base. But, agreed, not complaining.
http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/instagraphs/danny-espinosa-got-hit-by-a-strike/

Sammy Kent said...

So as of 11:15 neither team has named a starter for this afternoon. I think it's going to be Joe Ross for the Nats, but Dusty could surprise me and pick Reynaldo Lopez--whom I would rather keep as a long man if Joe gets in trouble early. I hope the Dodgers bring back Kershaw. Just got a good feeling going against him in the postseason on short rest. Plus, I think our bullpen is in much better shape than theirs. They went through a lot of guys Sunday and yesterday. Scrabble and Trienen both got yesterday off, and Ollie Perez actually got somebody out before doing his pitch-to-one-left-handed-batter-and-give-up-a-hit routine, so he's available to do the same thing today.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Harper about the "feel" of the team this year as opposed to 2014. The Dodgers seem like the 2014 Nationals.

Anonymous said...

One thing that makes me feel better about this game despite the lack of confidence I have in Ross/Lopez is that if things got bad, I think Scherzer would be ready out of the pen. Say we have a 3-2 leas in the 5th, but they have two men on w nobody out....I think you'd see Scherzer. Roll the dice and try to get the series win NOW. No playing for tomm. Then if we win Scherzer pitches NLCS game two on Sunday.

I'm fascinated by this game and what it means for the Nats and DC sports in general. Can we finally....finally, for the love of God, step up and make it to a conference final??? It's been 18 years. 18 years. We deserve this.

JD said...

I think their bullpen was wiped out yesterday. They put in Jansen in a non save situation because they basically had that one guy left who they used after Jansen imploded. The commentators were talking about a starter coming in after.

Kenny B. said...

Agreed about the Nats feeling more Nats-like. Maybe it's the influence of Dusty, or maybe it's just the warm sun of LA (I swear I think the Nats play better in mildly warm weather). Maybe it's just the classic issue of winning puts everybody in a good mood, and you would much rather not be playing an elimination game on the road. Whatever the reason, it's nice to see so many players contributing at the plate, even if the K numbers are a bit disconcerting. Also agree that the psychological barrier as a fan of getting past the NLDS would be huge.

Did anybody else pick up and C&D's brief discussion about Kershaw's mechanics on Friday? I was in transit and so was listening on the radio, and they mentioned that he was falling off the mound in an odd way. They suggesting he was "showing something new," but given the performance we saw from pretty much the most automatic guy you can put on a mound, seems possible to me that he is not 100%.

I think one of these teams is due for a dominant pitching performance, and since the playoffs is the time for unlikely heroes, I don't see why it can't be Joe Ross. So long as Ross doesn't completely implode, if the Nats can avoid quick outs, I like their chances in a battle of the bullpens.

Robot said...

I like where we are right now, but the team has been closer than this before.

I think it's a Ross/Lopez combo vs. Urias. Kershaw might be brought in in a tight spot, but after Game 1, I don't see him starting on short rest.

JD said...

Kershaw is pitching, as predicted. There was no way they were going to start a rookie in an elimination game, not if they could use Kershaw.

Fries said...

I'm optimistic now with Kershaw in today. I still think the nats will need to come back to DC, but I need like hill vs scherzer way better than a repeat of game 1

mike k said...

Let's do it today. Scherzer on full rest v. Hill on short rest at home is a classic recipe for a Nats upset. I'm already having daymares of it, right now.

Anonymous said...

Gotta be honest. I feel like we have to win tonight, and if wre don't we'll lose Game 5. It's the DC sports script, and I fear it. We rhave to break the mold. No more drama, we need to end it RIGHT NOW.

JW said...

I don't follow other DC sports (just because I don't really care for hockey, NBA basketball or NFL football) so I can't comment on what the "DC sports script" might be.

But even if the Nats lose today (likely), you have to like Max on full rest vs. Hill on short rest. You have to be confident there. Of course anything can happen, but if you aren't feeling good with your ace on the mound in that situation you are probably being overly pessimistic.

Anonymous said...

It's Kershaw.

Anonymous said...

http://www.federalbaseball.com/

Shane said...

Doubt they use Hill in game 5. He is having blister issues, and short rest will probably knock him out early.

Shane said...

Agreed. Nats need to take advantage early. Dodgers pitching is in desperation mode.

Kenny B. said...

@JW "if you aren't feeling good with your ace on the mound in that situation you are probably [a DC sports fan]." FTFY.

I agree with others: I like getting Kershaw on short rest. He'll be amped because it's an eliimination game, but he was bad on Friday, he's on short rest, and the Dodgers have overtaxed their bullpen. They have almost no one fresh to put on that mound. If the Nats can at least make him throw a lot of pitches in the early innings, he'll wear out quickly and make mistakes.

DezoPenguin said...

Yeah, I think this is optimal. On the one hand, the game Ross pitches is more likely to be a loss for us just because of Dodger run-scoring no matter who pitches for them, so if Ross does lay an egg I'd rather it be wasting Kershaw. On the other hand, if Ross does pitch well, we're more likely to score off Kershaw on short rest than Kershaw on normal rest. And if we do lose this game, we get Max at home against either Urias (rookie in a road playoff start) or Hill on short rest (not a recipe for success given his blisters and general fragility). I think the decision to start Kershaw today gives us a better overall chance of getting at least one win.

Of course, I'd prefer to get it this evening and not have to worry about Game 5, but I do think this is a case of over-managing (and a bit of panic) by Roberts. This is not the same thing as "don't use Zach Britton in an elimination game."

Anonymous said...

Or not. Big-game pitchers--even though not 100%, and on short rest--often find a way to pitch to the occasion. Kershaw looked ragged and was hittable in Game 1, but the Dodgers still won.

You ride into a do-or-die battle on your best warhorse, tired or not.

Bold or Not To Bold said...

Joe Ross has ice water in his veins. Prediction: he goes 6 shutout innings and the Nats bullpen nails it down for the win today.

Now that Turner has gotten an up close look at Kershaw, he will join Werth and Zim in pounding him. Prediction: Kershaw does not get out of the 4th today.

Froggy said...

I think it is a win-win situation for me...either the Nats put it away today (preferred) or I go to another game of baseball at home on Thursday.

Kenny B. said...

@Bold or Not To Bold proves prophetic in one pitch.

Mythra said...

27 pitches in 1st inning for Kershaw. Dodgers bullpen is going to be a dumpster fire if there is a Game 5.

Robot said...

Treinen and failnin', once again

Fries said...

Glad to see the team fight back, but come ON Dusty, it was obvious treinen couldn't find the zone on the previous batters, why was he left in to face a lefty when Solis was good to go??

Sammy Kent said...

I said to have four lefties in the pen. Zimmerman should have been pulled for Clint when Kershaw got the hook. Except for the double in the ninth yesterday (which actually turned out to be relatively meaningless) he's done nothing in the clutch. We had what, 15 Ks today? Pathetic.

Josh Higham said...

All things considered, I think the Nats have to go home feeling OK about themselves. The offense is not great but 1-8 are all contributing at least some. The bullpen has been really good, today's rough outing notwithstanding. They haven't really been out of a game at any point. Sure, you should win if you Kershaw gives up 5 runs, but by about the 3rd it was clear that he was better than G1 when the Nats also lost by just a single run. Max going to the mound against a tired guy with finicky fingertips. They've gotta love it.

Anonymous said...

Bad news, gents. Dodgers will score 2-3 off Max, he'll leave in the 5th or 6th and the BP will give up another 1 or 2.

We need to score 4 and we won't. Dodgers, 5-3. Nats continue DC's misery.

There's just something in the water, I can feel it. I'm certain we're going to lose, certain.

JE34 said...

The 2 runs surrendered by the pen in Game 4 are the only two runs allowed by the pen in the series! Can I get an Amen for the pen? Yes, I was cringing with Oliver Perez out there yesterday in a huge spot, but he got the outs.

Zim's 0-4 on Tuesday was his only 0-fer in the series. After how bad he's been, we have got to be pleased with that. He's had two 2-hit games, and a 1-for-3 with a walk. No way do I pull Zim for Clint. He had a horrrrrrible at-bat early against Maeda on Monday, but on the whole he has been productive.

I was surely not alone in muttering at my TV, "Get him outta there Dusty" when Ross was coming unglued in the 3rd yesterday. I wish Dusty's hook were a little faster, but not like the every-fwiggin-hitter frequency of Dave Roberts. That is agonizing.