TINSMAN: Nats have been here before—never further

Brian Tinsman
October 08, 2019 - 2:17 am
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After blowing the first of two home games, the Washington Nationals righted the ship with an emotional Game 4 win on Monday that tied the series, sending it back to Los Angeles.

It's something that the Nats have done often in their trips to the NLDS in recent years. The D.C. franchise is now 3-2 in Game 4s, with wins over St. Louis in 2012, Chicago in 2017, and L.A. in 2019.

All were do-or-die scenarios. If they can win again on Wednesday, they will enter uncharted franchise territory with a trip to the NLCS. That has, historically, been a big "if."

The Nats have played in a decisive Game 5 in the NLDS three other times and never advanced, losing to the Cardinals, Cubs and Dodgers (2016).

What makes this year different could very well be the failure of the others. That sage idea was floated by veteran slugger Ryan Zimmerman before the game.

"I think that the more you play in them, the more you realize they're just like any other game," Zimmerman told reporters before the game. "The little things usually matter. You've just got to kind of treat it as a normal game and go out there and, kind of like we always say, take it one at-bat, one inning at a time and not try and think too much about it."

Zimmerman did just that in the fifth inning, scorching a home run 414 feet and putting the game out of reach for L.A.

Going Back to Cali:

It doesn't hurt that the Nats will send Stephen Strasburg to the mound for Game 5. Strasburg has spent this postseason thwarting the Dodgers, lowering his ERA as a starter in the playoffs to historic lows.

The Nats will need it all, including the timely hitting that returned in Game 4. In a series where the crooked inning has won the game, the Nats got the upper hand with a four-run fifth inning that chased starter Rich Hill.

The Nats will also need a continuation of their bullpen performance from Game 4, where Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson combined for two drama-free, scoreless innings.

Staring down elimination, the Nats seemed to find a way to be loose again in Game 4. If that can carry over to Game 5, the Nats could very well punch their tickets to the next round.

"We've got plenty to go," Zimmerman assured the media after Game 4. "Any time you play at home, especially postseason games, it's why you play the game. It's what you live for. Obviously the game is here, but even more so, going to L.A. for Game 5.

"This is why you play the game. This is what you live for."

Brian Tinsman has covered D.C. sports since 2011, both from the team marketing and skeptical fan perspectives. Tweet your criticisms @Brian_Tinsman.

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