By Michael Marzzacco
On a blustery autumn afternoon at Nationals Park, the Nats were looking to even their series with a win in Game 2 of the NLDS. A home run by Wilson Ramos‘ replacement at catcher and a couple of RBI’s by a player that seems to love the month of October proved to be the difference in a 5-2 win.
In the beginning of the game it almost looked like de ja vu for the Nats. Cory Seager, batting second, homered in his first at-bat for the second straight game. This time the long ball didn’t come on the first pitch. Instead the first pitch uncorked by Nats starter Tanner Roark sailed just above Seager’s head nearly hitting him. Seager took a 3-0 count into the stands above the out of town scoreboard in right-center.
The Nationals had an opportunity to tie or take the lead in the second when they loaded the bases with one out but Jose Lobaton grounded to Dodgers left-handed starting pitcher Rich Hill, who tossed it to home and first for the inning-ending double play.
The Dodgers extended their lead to 2-0 in the third on a single by Josh Reddick that scored Justin Turner. Bryce Harper fired the ball from left field to Lobaton at catcher but the ball bounced right out of his glove as Turner beat the tag. They had a chance to do more damage with two on but the Nats turned an inning-ending double play of their own to get out of the inning
The momentum shifted in the fourth inning perhaps in the President’s Race. In their six playoff games, fan-favorite Teddy Roosevelt has won every race. The Nats had won only one of those games. Thomas Jefferson was awarded the victory.
A few minutes later with two men on, including Danny Espinosa who was hit by a pitch, Lobaton smacked a three-run homer into the visitor’s bullpen. The momentum was shifted as the three-run bomb gave the Nationals their first lead of the entire series. A lot of players didn’t think the ball cleared the fence, since it was a windy afternoon at the ballpark
“When he hit it, a bunch of people in the dugout were cussing because we didn’t think he could get it out. All kinds of expletives were being thrown around,” said Jayson Werth.
“I didn’t think anybody could hit a home run out of left field today with the way that wind was blowing everything back,” said Nationals manager Dusty Baker.
The pitch came on a 1-1 count and it was only Lobaton’s second hit of 2016 against a left-handed pitcher.
“When it went out I was like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool’. Everybody was asking the same. And a couple guys in the dugout are like, ‘Wow, maybe that moment wasn’t windy.’ Maybe that moment it just stopped and gave me something extra,” said Lobaton.
Hill slammed his right fist in the dugout, not his throwing hand but still bad enough as his right hand was bleeding.
With the Nats up 3-2, the Dodgers tried to rally in the fifth by loading the bases. Roark exited the game when there were two runners on. Reliever Marc Rzepczynski was faced with the task of getting out of the jam. He surrendered a walk to Yasiel Puig that loaded the bases but struck out Yasmini Grandal swinging on three pitches. Howie Kendrick lined out to Werth in left field to end the inning as Werth pumped his fist after he made a sliding catch for the out.
With Trea Turner at third and Harper at first, Daniel Murphy came up in the bottom of the fifth. Murphy got a base hit into center field that scored Turner to put Washington ahead 4-2. Murphy came up to bat again in the seventh inning as the sellout crowd at Nats Park was already chanting “MVP!”. With Werth on second, Murphy got another base hit, this time into left field that scored Werth to give the home ballclub a 5-2 lead. Werth slid home just ahead of the throw.
The home run by Lobaton and the two-RBI singles by Murphy were all the Nats needed. Mark Melancon shut the door in the ninth and this series is now even at a game apiece.
This was the Nationals’ second home playoff win in team history and their first since Werth’s walkoff home run in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS against the Cardinals.
After the game both teams flew out to LA. Dodger Stadium will be the setting for Game 3 which will take place this afternoon with a 4:08 eastern first pitch. You can catch the game on MLB Network.