Clayton Kershaw as human and the Dodgers' bullpen imploded, but Los Angeles still forced a Game 5.
Dave Roberts had a decision to make. The Dodgers found themselves in a win-or-go-home Game 4 and Kenta Maeda had given a poor, three-inning effort in Game 3 which burned a total of seven bullpen arms. Julio Urias, the talented but still raw rookie lefty was slated to start Game 4, but Roberts took a gamble and decided to start Clayton Kershaw on short rest.
Washington grabbed a 2-1 series lead as the two managers handled Game 3 much differently.
The final score hardly told the full story, and yet it was far more representative of the game as a whole. A four-run ninth turned what was a tense, belabored slog into a laugher. The Dodgers got off to a quick start, as for the third straight game their starting pitcher struck out Trea Turner in his first at-bat and, for the third straight game, Corey Seager drove in a run in his first at-bat. It was downhill from there, though, as the Nationals worked counts, driving Kenta Maeda’s pitch count up.
Washington evened the NLDS at 1-1 thanks to Los Angeles repeatedly failing with the bases loaded.
As Game 2 between the Nationals and Dodgers got underway Sunday, it would’ve been reasonable to believe that Los Angeles was feeling good about themselves and their chances of going back to the West Coast with a 2-0 lead. After all, they’d managed to snatch a victory in Game 1 when the Battle of the Aces fizzled into a bullpen duel. So, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when the Dodgers stormed out of the blocks early against Tanner Roark and Washington.
Clayton Kershaw vs. Max Scherzer in Washington and Johnny Cueto vs. Jon Lester in Chicago.
On Wednesday night, the Giants did what they have done in every even year of Barack Obama’s presidency: win a do-or-die game in the playoffs. Now, the Giants head to Wrigley Field with the unenviable task of trying to knock off the 103-win Cubs.
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The battle of the best rookies in the NL kicks off in DC.
The battle for coastal supremacy will pit the two best rookies in the National League against each other, not to mention two of the best pitchers in the game right now. It’s hard to fathom that so many storylines could fit in one series and not focus on Bryce Harper, and yet he was neither the most dynamic (Trea Turner) nor the best (Daniel Murphy) player on his team this year. The Dodgers needed every ounce of their depth to arrive in the playoffs, burning through [checks notes] 41 starting pitchers this season. Hey, it was plausible for a minute, right? Fine, whatever. Let’s be real, this is a contest to decide who can lose to the Best Team In Baseball Cubs or the Even Year Bullsh*t Giants, anyway, right?
The Nationals' newest star isn't just great--he's the exact right kind of great for his manager's liking.
You wouldn’t know it by their 17-11 August record, nor by their 100 percent Playoff Odds, but this has been a bit of a turbulent season (again) for the talented Nationals. They’ve gotten some very good luck—like Brandon Phillipsblocking a trade to Washington this winter, forcing the team to move on and sign Daniel Murphy; like Wilson Ramos suddenly becoming the star-caliber catcher for which first the Twins, then the Nationals had waited so long—but also some bad breaks, like Stephen Strasburg’s continued injury problems, and Bryce Harper’s (possibly injury-driven) two-month hiatus from Harperness. They’ve had to rebuild their bullpen on the fly, and navigate some odd early-season decisions by Dusty Baker.
The long-term deals signed last winter have turned into one of the ugliest in recent memory, from the teams' perspectives.
If you look back at the biggest multi-year contracts signed by free agents every offseason, the rate of teams at some point wishing they could get out of the deal tends to be high. On the most basic level, there’s simply a lot of room for a nine-figure investment in a baseball player to go wrong, particularly when the player is usually on the wrong side of 30 years old and coming off a stretch of good performance that makes for a natural regression candidate. Beyond that, the notion of a “winner’s curse” is at work, in that any team bidding enough to secure a high-end free agent likely did so by paying a premium. And, of course, players sign deals when they're in their prime. They end them when they're old, but still getting paid like they're not.
None of which is to suggest that handing out $100 million-plus deals to free agents is always a bad idea, but rather that for the contract to be a good idea the team has to get tremendous value in the early years. There’s a tacit understanding that, for instance, a six-year, $150 million signing will not provide the team with as much value in Year 5 and Year 6 as it does in Year 1 and Year 2, but the team lives with the later years of the contract in order to get the early years. Another way of looking at it is that, if things don’t go well in those early years of a big long-term contract, the whole signing may turn very, very ugly.
Stephen Strasburg's perfect season gets befouled. Meanwhile, a baseball traveled 484 feet and Francisco Liriano righted himself.
The Thursday Takeaway
We’re not supposed to talk about pitcher wins anymore. There’s no real need to count the ways that the statistic is misleading and poorly constructed; Brian Kenny can take care of that for you. If you read this site, you should know why it’s not the greatest barometer of pitching success in a world filled with poor pitching barometers. In a world of blind men, the one-eyed man is king. The pitcher win is a blind man without a nose or nerve endings in his fingers.