Heading into tomorrow night’s Game 5, the Washington Nationals franchise needs a win to avoid another crushing NLDS loss
Yesterday, the Washington Nationals rallied from a three-run deficit in Game 4 to tie the game in the seventh. That inning, which was capped by a Daniel Murphy two-run single, had the chance to go down as one of the best innings in the team’s short history since moving to D.C. But, the Dodgers ended up winning the game on a Chase Utley RBI single in the eighth.
Now, the series shifts back to Nationals Park for a deciding Game 5 with the winner playing the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS. The last time Nats Park hosted a winner take all game was back in 2012. That night, the Washington Nationals had a 6-0 lead against the Cardinals after three innings, but failed to close the deal.
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Four years later, the pressure is on the Washington Nationals to close the deal and make it to their first NLCS in team history. Over the final week of the season, the Dodgers didn’t play well, which allowed the Nats to get home field advantage in the series. Plus, a win in Game 3 allows the Nats to go to their ace (Max Scherzer) on regular rest.
This game tomorrow night (8:08 p.m ET, FS1) is important on so many levels. First, let’s look at the legacy of manager Dusty Baker. While Baker has had success with four different teams, he has struggled to win the big close out game lately. Here is the stat from Elias Sports Bureau:
The Washington Nationals shouldn’t fire Dusty Baker if they lose this game and he has had a good season in fixing the clubhouse problems from a season ago. But, at the same time, if Baker were to lose his ninth straight win or take all game as manager, it would make some question whether he’s the manager to get this team to the next step.
As for the ace, Scherzer has never lost more than one game in a playoff series. It is a small sample size though when you consider he has only started two times in a series twice (2011 ALDS and 2013 ALCS). This is the kind of game the Washington Nationals brought Scherzer in to get them to that next step. Here’s what Scherzer said last night about Game 5:
Scherzer is key to the win because the Washington Nationals have the pitching edge right now. The Nats haven’t gotten any length from their starting pitching in this series. With the Dodgers having to rely on Rich Hill and Julio Urias (at some point), Scherzer needs to go deep into this game and ideally, be the bridge to Mark Melancon.
Finally, I want to look at something Jayson Werth said after his great performance in Game 3 when he drove in a pair of runs and hit a home run off Kenley Jansen. After the win in Game 3, Werth gave some interesting comments in his postgame press conference:
"“With getting Dusty this year and the moves at the deadline, again, I just feel like this is — you don’t always get opportunities. I feel like it got taken away last year, and obviously I can’t play this game forever. So I feel like this is — I feel like this is our chance and I also feel like maybe this is my last chance to do it. For whatever reason, just been having fun.” (h/t ASAPSports.com)"
Werth is nearing the end of his career, but he had a strong regular season and he’s continued that success in the NLDS. The Washington Nationals window to win is still open with some of their young talent (Trea Turner, Pedro Severino, Reynaldo Lopez to name a few), but a loss tomorrow night could be seen as another missed opportunity for the team.
From the Dodgers perspective, a loss would be their third straight series loss, but Dave Roberts has shown some good things in his first year as manager. Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals have the home field and their ace on the mound. It’s in their favor and now its time for them to close the deal.
Yes, the Washington Nationals don’t have Wilson Ramos and Stephen Strasburg right now. They have made this series competitive after most experts picked the Dodgers to win this series. That being said, a second Game 5 loss at home in the last five years would be a tough loss for this franchise.