Dave McCullough recaps Game 2 of the NLDS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, with Daniel Murphy’s perfect day at the plate and Jose Lobaton’s homer pacing the Nats to a 5-2 victory that tied the series at one game apiece.
Weather associated with Hurricane Matthew delayed Game 2 between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals by a day – a major factor in a five-game series where both teams used their aces in Game 1. Both Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer can now be brought back on short rest to pitch in Game 4, if necessary. Further, both team’s bullpens are rested, and all the relievers were on deck for Game 2 and beyond. That changes how both managers – the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts and the Nats’ Dusty Baker – will choose to deploy their pitching assets for the remainder of the series. But first, trade deadline acquisition Rich Hill would take the mound to start for Los Angeles while 16-game winner Tanner Roark climbed the hill for Washington in Game 2.
The Dodgers wasted no time jumping on Roark, as after Chase Utley flew out for out number one, likely NL Rookie of the Year and potential NL MVP Corey Seager blasted a home run into the right center field seats. Roark escaped the inning without further damage, but the home crowd was murmuring in concern. The volume picked up just a little after Trea Turner, Bryce Harper, and Jayson Werth went down in order in the bottom half of the inning.
Again Roark retired the first hitter of the inning, Josh Reddick, on a fly out, but the second batter Joc Pederson singled through the infield. Looking shaky, Roark then plunked left fielder Andrew Toles. That prompted the Nationals pitching coach Mike Maddux to visit the mound, where he presumably told Roark, “look, the pitcher is up next, so if you don’t get him out, Dusty’ll be out here next.” Rich Hill has logged 222 major league appearances and in that time has stepped into the batter’s box a whopping 134 times. He has 14 career hits and zero home runs, sporting a slash line of .111/.125/.135. Predictably, he waved ineffectively at three pitches for the second out of the inning. Chase Utley then grounded out to strand the runners and end the threat.
Daniel Murphy led off the second inning with a single to center field, the first of his three hits in the game. After fellow MVP candidate Anthony Rendon struck out, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman walked and Hill hit Danny Espinosa to load the bases with one out. But Hill induced weak contact from Jose Lobaton, which was pounced on by catcher Yasmani Grandal to start an inning-ending double play.
Seager led off the bottom of the third with a fly out. Next, third baseman Justin Turner worked a walk. Adrian Gonzalez followed with a single to left, advancing Turner to second. On a 1-0 count Reddick laced a single into right, which scored Turner. On the throw Gonzalez scampered to third and Reddick to second. With first base open, Roark intentionally walked Pederson to load the bases with one out. The strategy worked, as Grandal grounded into a double play to end the inning. The home crowd wasn’t thrilled, but Roark was able to limit the damage to just one run, and a 2-0 Dodgers lead after 2 ½. However, Trea Turner single with one out in the next half inning came to naught, and the Nats went down quickly in the bottom half of the inning.
Roark got through the top of the fourth, though he did allow an infield single to Hill. In the bottom half Murphy worked the leadoff walk. But Rendon and Zimmerman flied out, putting Espinosa at the plate again – and again the Nats shortstop was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second. Atoning for his bases-loaded double play two innings earlier, Lobaton launched a 1-1 pitch deep in the night for a 3-run homer. With the score now 3-2, Roark then popped up to first base to end the inning.
After a Justin Turner single to lead off the fifth, Gonzalez flew out, but Reddick ended Roark’s evening with a soft liner into left, putting two on with one out. Reliever Marc Rzepczynski then walked pinch hitter Yaisel Puig, loading the bases. But the reliever escaped, as Grandal then struck out and Howie Kendrick – pinch hitting for Toles – lined out to Werth in left. The Nats cashed in another run in the bottom of the inning, with Turner, Harper, and Murphy all notching consecutive singles, and Turner scoring on Murphy’s line drive to center. Roberts then went to the bullpen, summoning Pedro Baez to face Rendon, who lofted a fly to left field, which Howie Kendrick snagged for out number two and fired to the plate, gunning down Harper for out number three – and limiting the Nats to just the one run, making the lead 4-2.
Baez departed in favor of pinch hitter Charlie Culberson, who flied out. Utley walked, then Seager struck out and Turner worked another walk, this time off Rzepczynski, who was relieved by Sammy Solis. With two on and two out another Dodger rally was snuffed out, this time by a Gonzalez fly out. Luis Avilan took the mound – replacing Culberson in the box score – to start the bottom half of the inning for the Dodgers. After a leadoff single by Zimmerman, Espinosa was called out on strikes – the first time he was retired in the game. Zimmerman then advanced to second on a ground out by Lobaton and Roberts went to the bullpen again – this time replacing Avilan with Josh Fields after Chris Heisey was announced as the pinch hitter. The reliever bested the replacement batter, inducing a swinging strikeout to end the inning.
Blake Treinen replaced Solis in the top of the seventh and got the Dodgers 1-2-3. Fields struck out Trea Turner to start the bottom half of the inning and was then replaced by Grant Dayton, who struck out Harper. However, Werth then stroked a double to left, and Murphy followed with a single to the same spot, scoring the fifth, and final, run of the game.
Both teams went 1-2-3 in the 8th, and Nats’ closer Mark Melancon worked around a single by Turner in the ninth to nail down the save, and the win. Lobaton’s 3-run homer and Murphy’s 3 hits sunk the Dodgers, who go back to Los Angeles with the series tied 1-1. As the series shifts out west, both managers will be thinking hard about bringing back their ace if they lose Game 3 for the potential elimination game in the fourth matchup of the series.