All-star closer Kenley Jansen celebrates his team’s 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals in game one of the teams’ National League Divisional Series on Friday at Nationals Park.
DODGERS LEAD SERIES 1-0
WP- Kershaw LP- Scherzer SV- Jansen
HR- Seager, LAD Turner, LAD
STARS OF THE GAME
Third Star- Corey Seager did not play against the Nationals when the Dodgers visited Nationals Park in July, but Nats’ fans got to see the soon to be National League Rookie of the Year’s talent in a big way early in yesterday’s game. After Nats’ starter Max Scherzer fanned Dodgers’ leadoff man Chase Utley to start the game, Seager ambushed the Nats’ ace with a first pitch booming home run to centerfield to give the visitors a lead they would not lose. Doing big things against right-handed pitching certainly isn’t new to Seager, whose .948 OPS against righthanders was the 13th highest total in the Major Leagues in 2016 for batters with at least 200 at bats them. Washington’s Daniel Murphy was third in the Majors with a .985 mark, and his teammate Trea Turner was sixth with a .957 OPS against righties.
Second Star- One has to be impressed with the career transformation Los Angeles’ Justin Turner has undergone. Since joining the Dodgers Turner has become a legitimate power threat, hitting 50 home runs (including a career high 27 this year) and posting a .492 slugging percentage in his time in Dodger Blue. Turner’s power was on display yesterday as he hit a big two run homer off of Scherzer in the top of the third inning to give Los Angeles a 4-0 lead. Turner’s blast continued his show of power against Washington this year. He hit a home run off of Yusmerio Petit when the Nats faced Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, and hit two more off of Stephen Strasburg when Los Angeles was in Washington in July.
Star of the Game- Los Angeles’ closer Kenley Jansen looks like he could be a defensive end for the Rams, and the intimidating reliever did his job in a big way yesterday. Jansen recorded a five out save, striking out three in the process, as Los Angeles took control of the series. Jansen had five saves of four or more outs in the regular season, second only to Tampa’s Alex Colome and Toronto’s Roberto Osuna who each had six such saves. The Nationals had four four plus out saves in 2016, three by Shawn Kelley and one by Mark Melancon.
Valiant in Defeat- Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman had two hits each. Rendon drove in two runs with a clutch two-out single against Kershaw to cut the Los Angeles lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the third, and had a line drive single in the fifth as well. Zimmerman hit the ball hard three times, singling in his first two at bats and then lining out to deep right field in his third.
On a dreary Saturday morning in Washington, here’s a bit of news that won’t do much to brighten the city’s mood. Since 2005, 21 teams who were hosts in the first game of a League Divisional Series were down 0-1 after that game. Only five of those 21 teams went on to win their series.
Neither Kershaw or Scherzer were at their best yesterday, but both did keep their teams in the game. Kershaw allowed three runs on eight hits over five innings to win his third game in nine post-season decisions. Scherzer allowed four runs over the first three frames, but shut the Dodgers out over his final three innings of work as he saw his post-season record drop to 4-4.
When the Nats’ offense struggled in 2016, it was often due to an inability to put the bat on the ball in crucial moments. The strikeout bug bit the Nats on Friday, with Turner, Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa fanning three times each. Espinosa’s strikeouts were particularly important, as each came with two men on base.
Kudos to members of both teams’ bullpens for their performance under post-season pressure on Friday. Four Dodgers’ relievers and two Nats’ hurlers combined for seven innings of shut out ball, with only three hits allowed and nine strikeouts.
With its season all but on the line, Washington turns to Tanner Roark to right the ship in Game Two of the series. Roark is 0-1 with a 3.48 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched against the Dodgers. Roark has had great success against the Dodgers’ Chase Utley (.077 average in 13 at bats) in his career, while Adrian Gonzalez has two hits and a home run in four career at bats against the Nats’ righty.
Tall and talented Dodgers’ lefty Rich Hill has reason to be confident when he looks to give the visitors a commanding 2-0 lead in the series, but he’ll probably be a bit wary when he faces Nats’ first baseman Ryzn Zimmerman. In his career against Hill, the Nats’ veteran has six hits in nine at bats with a double and two home runs. Jose Lobaton is scheduled to start at catcher for the Nats’ today, and the veteran backstop has three hits (including two doubles) in as many career at bats against Hill.
Baseball fans have long memories, especially when it comes to remembering players on opposing teams who’ve caused their team heartache. While the Washington Nationals have only been around since 2005, there have been many opposing players who’ve made quite an impression on Nats’ fans during that time period.
Here’s a look, fun fact Friday style, at the player from each National League opponent whose made me think he’s a Nats’ killer.
Freddy Krueger had his razor-sharp fingers and Jason of the “Friday the 13th” series fame had his mask but for my money, those two paled in comparison to Craig Kimbrel’s stance. Particularly during the disappointing 2013 campaign, many of us saw that stance in our sleep as we tossed and turned following another Nats’ loss to Atlanta where Kimbrel shut the door on our hopes.
In his time with Atlanta, Kimbrel went 3-1 with 23 saves and 73 strikeouts in 42.1 innings pitched with a Little League-esqe 0.732 WHIP. I for one am happy that he’s in Boston now. Let our friends in Baltimore start having the nightmares we once did!
Some Nationals’ fans, particularly those who weren’t on board during the RFK Stadium days might vote for Giancarlo Stanton or even Jose Fernandez here, but my vote goes to the multi-talented Ramirez who terrorized the Nats with his bat, glove and legs while playing for the Marlins.
In 481 at bats against the Nats during that time period, Ramirez posted a 1.036 OPS with 31 home runs, 88 RBI, 37 doubles, four triples and 29 stolen bases. Ramirez was one of those opponents who seemed to be up to bat every inning and with the poor state of the Nats’ staff during his glory days in the Sunshine State, there were times when Ramirez almost was!
NEW YORK METS
The Dark Knight has been close to a super hero against the Mets’ (at least currently) fiercest rivals, allowing one run or fewer in eight of his 10 starts against Washington. Harvey has struck out 76 batters in 66 innings against the Nats, allowing only two home runs (9/12/12 to Ryan Zimmerman and 6/28/13 to Ian Desmond).
Despite his dominance Harvey has won only three of his six decisions against Washington, but that doesn’t change the fact that those of us pulling for the guys with the Curly W caps are always nervous when we see Harvey glaring in at our batters from the mound.
During the late part of the last decade, the Philadelphia Phillies were to the Washington Nationals as Muhammad Ali was to Sonny Liston. Many Phillies games against our boys from DC ended in knockouts, much to the joy of Philadelphia’s ravenous fans.
A relatively unassuming player is the one Phillie I remember with the most trepidation. Perhaps it was because he always seemed to hit at least one home run every time I was at a Phils-Nats game from 2009 to 2011, but Raul Ibanez is the player who rattled my cage in this rivalry. Ibanez had a 2009 campaign for the ages against Washington, posting a 1.368 OPS with eight homers, 29 runs scored and 21 RBI.
Chicago Cubs- From 2005 through 2011, Aramis Ramirez was Mike Schmidt and Brooks Robinson rolled into one against the Nats. He put up a 1.019 OPS against Washington, hitting 15 home runs in 170 plate appearances.
Cincinnati Reds- Joey Votto has put up sterling numbers against most Reds’ opponents, and the Nats are no exception. When playing Washington, Votto has hit 12 homers with 34 RBI and posted a 1.068 OPS in 139 at bats.
Milwaukee Brewers- Former Brewer Corey Hart stands 6’6″ and weighs 24o pounds, and he seemed twice as big as that when he played for the Brew Crew against the Nats. Hart hit three home runs in one game against Washington on May 23, 2011, and had 12 taters and 27 RBI when facing Washington for Milwaukee from 2006 through 2012.
Pittsburgh Pirates- Greatness may be hard to define, but it is easy to notice when one sees it. Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen is one of the best players in baseball, and he’s shown his A+ stuff to Nats’ fans over the years, hitting 14 homers, driving in 32 runs and a 1.114 OPS.
St. Louis Cardinals- We’re all tempted to point to Pete F. Kozma here, but the real villain in Cards’ colors against Washington was Albert Pujols. The Cooperstown-bound slugger had a 1.218 OPS in 131 at bats for St. Louis against the Nats.
Arizona Diamondbacks- Brandon Webb was a Cy Young Award winner and a three time all-star before injuries derailed his career. Against Washington, Webb was 4-1 with a 1.79 ERA and two complete game shutouts.
Colorado Rockies- Former Nat Jamey Carroll and Tyler Colvin also excelled for Colorado when playing the Nats, but most feared Rockie opponent status goes to Matt Holliday. The veteran put up a .346/.431/.617 slash line in four years for Colorado against the Nats.
Los Angeles Dodgers- Many think Clayton Kershaw is one of the finest pitchers in baseball in the last 50 years. You won’t get a whole lot of arguments on that count from Nats’ fans. Kershaw is 9-2 with a 2.09 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 82 innings pitched when going up against Washington.
San Diego Padres- AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” might as well have been Willie Nelson’s “Turn Out the Lights” when Trevor Hoffman entered a game against the Nats, as the Padres’ reliever allowed no runs and only four hits with eight saves in 11 innings v.s. the Nats.
San Francisco Giants- Maybe it was bitterness over the Expos moving to DC, but former Expo Moises Alou punished his old franchise from 2005 through 2007 while playing for the Giants. During those years, Alou had a 1.253 OPS with three homers and 11 RBI in 30 at bats.