The Dodgers built another early lead but couldn’t tack on, and the Nationals made them pay with a comeback 5-2 win on Sunday at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, now even at one game apiece.
Jose Lobaton hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning to give the Nationals the lead, and Daniel Murphy was 3-for-3 with a walk and a pair of run-scoring singles to key the win for Washington.
The Dodgers scored single runs in the first and third innings against Nationals starter Tanner Roark, but could cash in any of their several other opportunities against him.
They loaded the bases with one out in the second, third and fifth innings against Roark, all with one out, and failed to tack on any extra runs.
The third-inning situation was unfortunate in that pitcher Rich Hill was the first batter once the bases were loaded. He struck out, followed by a ground out by Chase Utley to end the threat.
In the third inning, catcher Yasmani Grandal hit into a double play, and in the fifth inning he struck out, followed by a 107-mph line drive by pinch hitter Howie Kendrick that was caught in left field by Jayson Werth.
Not every situation is the same, obviously, but on average in 2016, having the bases loaded with one out produced 1.5691 runs in the rest of the inning, per Baseball Prospectus. The Dodgers had three of those situations in Game 2, with an expected 4.7 total runs, roughly, but scored none.
The Dodgers left a pair of runners on in the sixth as well, and for the game left a total of 12 runners on base.
One that got away
Hill had the curve ball working early, striking out the side in the first inning, and he tied a major league postseason record with seven strikeouts the first three innings, holding the Nationals scoreless.
Washington threatened in the second inning with a hit, a walk and a hit by pitch, loading the bases themselves with one out. But Lobaton bounced back to the box, where Hill was able to start a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.
Lobaton, a 31-year-old switch-hitting veteran with parts of seven seasons in the majors, got another chance two innings later. This time, batting with two on and two out, Lobaton drove a curve ball left up by Hill deep through the wind in left field and over the wall for a stunning three-run home run, turning a 2-0 Dodgers lead into a 3-2 deficit.
How rare was the Lobaton home run? He has two regular season home runs in 293 career plate appearances against southpaws. Also:
The home run was obviously the key blow of the inning, but the batter before was pretty key as well. Danny Espinosa was an escape hatch for the Dodgers in Game 1, striking out all three times up, all with two runners on base. But in his first trips to the plate on Sunday, Hill hit him with a pitch, including a curve on the back foot in the fourth, just before Lobaton’s home run.
Espinosa struck out in his other two plate appearances on Sunday, making him 0-for-5 with five strikeouts and two hit by pitches in the series.
The Nationals added another run with three hits in the fifth inning, driving Hill from the game with an RBI single by Daniel Murphy that widened Washington’s lead to 4-2. The lead might have grown but Kendrick was able to corral a fly ball in the wind in left field by Anthony Rendon, then recover to throw out Bryce Harper at the plate.
It was the sixth outfield assist of the season for Kendrick — a career second baseman — tying him with Yasiel Puig for the team lead.
Both starters lasted just 4⅓ innings on Sunday, which meant a lot of work for both bullpens.
Werth doubled against Grant Dayton with two outs in the seventh inning, followed by a single by Daniel Murphy to give the Nationals a 5-2 lead. It was Murphy’s third hit of the day and fourth time reaching base.
But it was also the first run allowed by either bullpen in the series.
Nationals relievers through two games have pitched 7⅔ scoreless innings, allowing 4 hits and 5 walks, with 7 strikeouts. They allowed no hits in Game 2 until Justin Turner singled in the ninth.
Turner was 2-for-3 with two walks on Sunday, and has a seven-game postseason hitting streak. Turner has reached base at least twice in all seven games.
The Dodgers bullpen has allowed one run on four hits in their 7⅔ innings, with two walks and 11 strikeouts.
Tower of power
After Roark “buzzed the tower” (as Dodgers reliever Chris Hatcher described it) with a pitch well up and in and over Seager’s head, Seager took him out to right field for another quick 1-0 lead for the Dodgers.
Seager is the first Dodger with a home run in back-to-back postseason games since Carl Crawford and Juan Uribe each did so in Games 3-4 of the 2013 NLDS against Atlanta. The club record is three straight games with a home run, set by Bill Madlock in Games 4-6 in the 1985 NLCS against St. Louis.
Hill tried a hybrid bunt / butcher boy swing with the bases loaded in the fourth, only to foul the ball off in an at-bat that ended in a strikeout. But in the fourth, with nobody on, Hill got a drag bunt down and into no man’s land behind the mound toward second base. The ball wasn’t fielded cleanly by a charging Daniel Murphy, and Hill got his first hit as a Dodger. In fact, it was his first major league hit of any kind since a June 19, 2009 single against Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies, when Hill was with the Orioles.
Game 1 particulars
Home runs: Corey Seager (2); Jose Lobaton (1)
WP - Blake Treinen (1-0): 1⅓ IP, 2 strikeouts
LP - Rich Hill (0-1): 4⅓ IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts
Sv - Mark Melancon (1): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 strikeout