Nationals open NLDS with a thud

Chris Lingebach
October 04, 2019 - 1:23 am
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The Nationals offense sleep-walked through a 6-0 Game 1 loss to the Dodgers to open the National League Division Series in Los Angeles.

This despite despite a respectable outing from left-handed starter Patrick Corbin, whose pre-game jitters carried over to the first postseason inning of his MLB career. Corbin, who allowed four walks in the first inning – walking in the first run of the game – straightened out after the early 1-0 deficit.

Corbin's only other run allowed was unearned. With runners on first and second and two outs in the bottom of the fifth, a hard shot from Max Muncy to first slipped past Howie Kendrick's glove, one of three unofficial gaffes the veteran made in the field Thursday night. Cody Bellinger scored to make it 2-0 Dodgers. Officially, Kendrick was only charged with two fielding errors on the day.

Corbin would finish with one earned run allowed, on three hits, five walks and nine strikeouts over six innings, five of which were quality.

It was the Nationals' bullpen that allowed two big innings late, extending the Dodgers' lead to 4-0 in the seventh and 6-0 in the eighth. With Corbin at 107 pitches, Nats manager Dave Martinez elected to go with right-hander Tanner Rainey to pitch to the heart of LA's lineup to open the bottom of the seventh.

Rainey struck out A.J. Pollock for the first out, causing Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts to reach for lefty slugger Joc Pederson off the bench to hit for right-hander David Freese. Pederson drew a six-pitch walk, bringing Justin Turner to the plate. Turner singled on a fly ball to right field, moving Pederson to third.

Related: TINSMAN: Nats better hope this was a hangover

With NL MVP candidate Cody Bellinger coming to the plate, Martinez curiously called for Fernando Rodney from the pen, forcing a self-inflicted righty-lefty matchup. The move appeared an act of genius initially, as 42-year-old Rodney struck Bellinger out on six pitches, freezing him on a 91-mph called strike three at the bottom of the zone.

With two outs, Rodney lost control, walking Chris Taylor, a right-handed hitter, and the bases loaded. Lefty Max Muncy followed up by barreling up a two-seam fastball and sending a two-RBI single to right field. 4-0 Dodgers.

"I liked the matchup again with the changeup on the lefties," Martinez explained his decision to leave Rodney in. "At that particular moment, he had two outs. He got bases loaded."

"I thought he would throw another changeup, and Muncy's a good hitter," he said. "And he actually didn't throw a bad pitch, it's just, Muncy put the ball in play. But Rodney's been in situations like that and got big outs. Like I said, when he got Bellinger out in a big moment, the key was the walk to Taylor."

Sean Doolittle sat in the pen, unused.

After a three-up, three-down top of the eighth from the Nats offense, Hunter Strickland took the mound in the bottom half of the inning. Strickland gave up a pair of solo homers, giving the Dodgers a 6-0 lead.

Doolittle sat in the pen, unused.

Aside from a leadoff double from Trea Turner, the Nats faded quietly into the night in the top of the ninth, on an Adam Eaton groundout, and a pair of strikeouts from Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto to end the game.

The Nationals, who had fought their way back from a 19-31 hole all season, and who made a magical comeback against the Brewers just two days earlier to be in this spot, had no fight Thursday night against the Dodgers.

Second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera and catcher Yan Gomes lazily flailed at pitches early in counts all night. Cabrera went 0-for-3 and stranded four runners on base, his most egregious transgression coming with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the fourth. In what proved to be Washington's best chance to score in the game, Cabrera flung his bat at an 0-1 knuckle curve in the dirt for a deflating groundout back to the pitcher.

Gomes contributed three strikeouts – seeing just 10 pitches – to the Dodgers' cause, in three seemingly effortless at-bats.

Soto earned the Nationals' only hit off Dodgers starter Walker Buehler with a lead-off single in the top of the second. Teammates Kendrick and Cabrera rewarded his efforts with a strikeout looking and an inning-ending double play, respectively. Buehler would leave the game after six after allowing no runs on one hit, three walks and eight strikeouts.

One can only hope the Nationals got this dud out of their system. Otherwise, they're destined for a quick end to their fight-filled season.

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