Oct 6, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos (40) celebrates with starting pitcher Doug Fister (58) after scoring a run during the seventh inning against the San Francisco Giants in game three of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The Nationals acquired Doug Fister last offseason with a very specific role in mind for the 6’7 sinkerballer. While Fister had been a wildly successful regular season pitcher in his two and a half years with the Tigers, the Nats acquired him to win big games down the stretch and in the postseason. No doubt they didn’t have elimination games in mind, but that’s exactly what Fister faced Monday afternoon, and he certainly lived up to his reputation as a big game pitcher.
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The Nats had one huge obstacle facing them in their quest to win Game 3 and live to see another day. That obstacle was Giants left hander Madison Bumgarner, who carried a sterling postseason resume into Game 3. The bearded left-hander also came into the game fresh off his complete game shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card game. One could expect a pitchers duel in this game, and a pitchers duel there was.
The game started off scoreless, with both pitchers exchanging zeroes for the better part of two hours. It wasn’t until the seventh that the Nationals took a page out of the Giants book and scrapped to get the lead.
The inning began when Ian Desmond singled to left against Bumgarner. Harper followed with a walk on five pitches to bring up Wilson Ramos, who had really struggled in the series. After Ramos missed two bunts to put him into a 1-2 hole, he finally got a bunt down on the ground. Bumgarner fielded the ball and, underestimating Desmond’s speed, decided to throw the ball to third base to try and get the lead runner. The ill advised throw sailed past Pablo Sandoval at third base, and the ball caromed down into the Giants bullpen. Desmond scored easily, and Harper took advantage of left fielder Travis Ishikawa‘s inexperience with the left-field bullpen to score all the way from first and give the Nats a two-run lead. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a base hit into left field to score Ramos, who chugged around third to beat a close play at the plate.
Fister would take the lead and run with it, shutting down the Giants in the bottom of the inning to finish his night. His line included seven scoreless innings, three strikeouts and just four hits allowed. Tyler Clippard came on in the eighth to fire a scoreless inning, earn a hold, and bring the Nationals to within three outs of avoiding elimination for another day.
Bryce Harper continued his postseason power surge in the top of the ninth. Facing right-hander Jean Machi, Harper mashed a 1-1 fastball way over the right field wall, nearly reaching the hallowed McCovey Cove.
Drew Storen would come on in the ninth inning to earn the save. Despite an early inning scare and a run allowed, Storen earned the save by inducing a slow groundout to Ian Desmond off the bat of Travis Ishikawa. By winning Game 3 by a score of 4-1, the Nats ensured Gio Gonzalez will face off against Ryan Vogelsong tomorrow in a quest to bring the series back to the nation’s capital for a winner-takes-all Game 5. One curly W down, two to go.