Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Unbelievable! They did it!


Kendrick for the win! Photo via USA Today

Kendrick for the win! Photo via USA Today

Tonight was one of the few games I’ve watched end to end in years.  I was not disappointed.

The Dodgers got to Stephen Strasburg early, clubbing several deep balls in the first couple innings (two for homers) to jump to a 3-0 lead, but he persevered and threw 6 innings and kept his team in the game. Walker Buehler looked unhittable … for a time.  The nats touched him up 5 straight innings for baserunners … but couldn’t string them together.  But the late-inning scoring heroics of this team came out again, with two homers in two pitches off of Dodger legend Clayton Kershaw to nullify Buehler’s excellent outing (6 2/3rds, 4hits 1 run) and tie the game in the 8th.  Every move Davey Martinez pulled came out Aces, with four shut-out innings from his “bullpen,” including four masterful batters from beleaguered starter Patrick Corbin to bridge the gap to the 8th/9th inning duo of Hudson/Doolittle.

Meanwhile, its Dave Roberts on the managerial hot-seat, opting for Kershaw and his oddly mediocre post-season record in lieu of a slew of solid bullpen options, then continuing with Joe Kelly and allowing him to blow the game wide open at the hands of Howie Kendrick‘s franchise defining grand slam in the top of the 10th to make up for his third error (and fourth misplayed ball) of the series.


Credit where credit is due; Corbin looked like a different guy; he wasn’t slinging it up there nibbling at 91; he was firing it 94-95 to setup his slider to devastating effect.  Night and day from his last outing.

How about your two best  hitters going a combined 5-for-9 with two homers, 3 RBI and 5 runs scored in a do-or-die game?  Hats off to Anthony Rendon and especially Juan Soto, who tattooed a 110-mph exit velocity homer 450 feet into the LA night off of Kershaw and had Roberts out to retrieve his legendary hurler before the ball landed.   Kendrick got the big fly, but Rendon/Soto combined for 5 of the team’s 9 hits on the night.  That’s clutch.

So the team moves on.  They face the surprising St. Louis Cardinals, who ousted the favored Braves and beat the Nats 5 of 7 this season.  We’ll do a preview as we get closer to figuring out what the Nats will do with their rotation.

New #1 game; no argument this time.

Written by Todd Boss

October 10th, 2019 at 1:34 am

16 Responses to 'Unbelievable! They did it!'

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  1. After having witnessed the 2012 NLDS Game 5 from second row RF seats and getting PTSD from the subsequent years’ disasters, never thought I would live to see this day…

    How befitting that the team will have to face the Cardinals for the first NLCS series in the franchise… they get a chance to wash the bad taste from 2012 from all of our mouths.


    10 Oct 19 at 4:16 am

  2. It takes great stamina to make it to 1:00 a.m.
    Todd, remember when you were talking about the Dodgers juggernaut in August and I said they would pay for not upgrading their bullpen.

    To be honest, I didn’t think it would be the Nats making them pay 2 months later.

    Let’s hear it for old farts playing baseball!
    Does anyone remember Kendrick’s nightmare series before last night. What a moment.

    Mark L

    10 Oct 19 at 7:44 am

  3. Great win. A few thoughts:
    1) Max and Stras have almost identical playoff results this year: one start giving up three runs off two homers early and then settling down; one dominant start giving up only one run; and one dominant relief performance
    2) Rendon and Soto are very very good
    3) I simply cannot believe Tanner Rainey pitched in that game and got outs. It feels surreal that that happened


    10 Oct 19 at 9:43 am

  4. Kendrick made up for his poor play. What do you do with him in the NLDS though? I mean, he seems like a bat you just have to have in the lineup. And I like Zimmerman at 1B right now. So Kendrick at 2B it is.

    nats used 10 of 11 pitchers on the NLDS roster in this series. 4 starters, 6 relievers. Only Voth didn’t appear, and you have to think his job was to mop up a lost cause start.

    Todd Boss

    10 Oct 19 at 9:49 am

  5. Kendrick simply must play every day. His bat is too good, and you just hope he had a bad few games defensively. Against a LH starter, I like Kendrick at 2B and Zim at 1B. Against a RH starter, I think I like Kendrick at 2B and Adams at 1B, but I can understand AssCab at 2B and Kendrick at 1B in that scenario.


    10 Oct 19 at 10:06 am

  6. I just hope this is the #3 game by next year!

    Man, if this team can get Eaton going the way he was going in September, there’s no telling what they can do.


    10 Oct 19 at 11:17 am

  7. So, so exciting. Veteran clutch play, starting pitching depth that becomes playoff bullpen depth, overall depth (to overcome the loss of Robles).

    And, as Santana Moss (the Cane) coined, apropos to Kendrick, Soto and Rendon, “Big Time Players Step Up Big in Big Time Games.” What a refreshing feeling to have that happen in our own big time games.

    As for Kendrick, he has to be Comeback Player of the Year, and I hope they re-sign him for whatever he wants. Anyone who can come back from an Achilles tendon tear at his age is a resilient, tough minded athlete worth betting on.

    The win exorcises the Dusty Baker ghosts, to be sure. Martinez sure knows how to keep the team playing to win through deflating circumstances or a feeling of being overmatched.

    What a fun team to root for! Cheers to everyone!


    10 Oct 19 at 1:10 pm

  8. The first third of the season sucked. It was painful to watch and I’m sure even more painful for the players, coaches, and front office. Looking back, though, it’s hard to imagine the team doing what it just did without the boot camp in resiliency during that awful stretch. Your bullpen sucks? Just learn how to score late in games, night after night. TBS flashed the stat after the one-two punch that de-Clawed Kershaw that the Nats have scored something like 30 more runs in the 8th inning or later than any other team in baseball.

    The Dodgers were front-runners in a front-running town. They led their division by nine games on June 1 and were never challenged, never played any meaningful games until the last seven days. All of Bellinger’s stats? The only ones that matter are a .211 BA with 0 RBIs and a K one out of every three times he came to the plate. The real MVP hit .412 for the other team and was at the center of all three run-producing rallies last night. (Pay the man!)

    We were wondering whether we paid Corbin too much to be our Dodger killer, but Davey kept the faith in him, and he dominated last night in the same stretch when the greatest (regular-season) pitcher of this generation blew the series. Corbin ended the series with 14 Ks in 8 IP and embarrassed the alleged MVP with the season on the line.

    And Kendrick? From goat to GOAT in one swing. Love the shot that shows him already screaming at the dugout while everyone else is waiting to make sure the ball cleared the fence. He had no doubt.

    So let’s bury Werth and the Gm 4 feel-good story, because Gm 4 heroics mean little without a Gm 5 win. Let’s put away our #34 jerseys and laugh at the thought of him counting his money while watching his Golden Knights. There was never a T-E-A-M like this when those guys were here.

    I said in August that this is my favorite Nats team ever. Welcome everyone else to the bandwagon.


    10 Oct 19 at 1:17 pm

  9. What an ending…Mikey diving headfirst and frantically massaging the ball into his glove as he tumbles. The look on his face as he gets up…priceless. I swear he looks 14 years old.

    M lloyd

    10 Oct 19 at 5:48 pm

  10. As I watched the final play, I couldn’t help thinking of MAT’s whiff that resulted in the Puig inside-the-park game winner in 2016. Mikey may have been as well. There were a lot of demons to vanquish last night.


    10 Oct 19 at 6:24 pm

  11. Current all-time game list, subject to change next week: 1) 2019 NLDS Gm 5; 2) 2019 WC; 3: 2019 NLDS Gm 4. All elimination games, two of which clinched advancement, all with a signature moment.

    Recency bias? Joy and relief? All of the above?


    10 Oct 19 at 6:33 pm

  12. Looking ahead . . . I feared the Braves more than I did the Cards, but the Cards just outplayed the Nats in a series late in the season. Scherzer in particular has struggled in two starts against the Cards this year. The Cards do have an astounding six players who struck out more than 100 times, plus they just made the very curious (stupid) decision to leave Flaherty in for more than 100 pitches in a blowout.

    I have no idea what the Nats can do with starters-as-relievers in a longer series, or whether they should even try, at least until they get to games 5-6-7. Strickland shouldn’t be an option for anything, but everyone else will need to be. The only pitcher who hasn’t thrown yet in the postseason is Voth, but he pitched well down the stretch in some vital starts so seems to have some cojones.

    The Cards have no LH starters, so it will be interesting to see how Davey juggles Kendrick/Zim/Cabrera. (Adams and Dozier seem to have been sidelined for the moment, but both are 20-homer guys, so don’t sleep on them contributing at some point.) Zim and Howie both had only a .286 OBP for the LAD series, so it isn’t like either is tearing it up overall, but, um, their clutches seem solid.

    I assume the rotation shakes out as Sanchez (1), Max (2), Stras (3), and Corbin (4). That may be a good approach with so much RH pop in the STL lineup in Goldy, Ozuna, and DeJong.

    It won’t be easy. The Cards had to fight to the finish line like the Nats did. The two teams that coasted to the end got toasted.


    10 Oct 19 at 7:02 pm

  13. I can’t tell you how many times I heard during the season that Sanchez wasn’t even an upgrade over Roark. Yeah, about that . . .

    Wow. I’ve been a Nats and Caps fan for far too long to ever believe a team is actually in the “driver’s seat” in a postseason series, but . . . we just stole Gm 1 on the road with our #4 starter (pitching a one-hitter!), and our closer on paternity leave, and have Max/Stras/Corbin lined up on regular rest.


    12 Oct 19 at 7:13 am

  14. Now TWO wins on the road and coming home for three games. Remain calm. Breathe deeply . . . This is definitely NOT normal for Nat fans!

    The Nats spend A LOT on starting pitching. Any questions now? Didn’t think so. Stras/Corbin/Sanchez/Max/Stras still coming. Odds are pretty decent we can win two of those.

    Wainwright has had a remarkable but not HOF career. He was facing a HOF guy who put on a HOF performance. If not for the Taylor miscue, the Cards wouldn’t have scored across two games. Heck, they only had a solitary single for FIFTEEN innings! Massively huge hit by Eaton to provide breathing room (and the winning margin). Trea scores from 1B with the throw cut off, not even close (after all the prattle-prattle-prattle by the TBS announcers about not pinch-running for Adams). (Please close out the series quickly so we can move on from these announcers!)

    Breathe deeply . . . and start hoping the Stros and Yanks beat each other up for seven games.


    12 Oct 19 at 9:51 pm

  15. HELLLLLLLLLL YESSSSSSSSSS! What a dominant series, and now time to rest.


    15 Oct 19 at 11:11 pm

  16. new posted!

    Todd Boss

    16 Oct 19 at 9:08 am

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