Lo­ba­ton’s HR, Mur­phy’s RBIs lift Nats past LA

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Howard Fendrich

Jose Lo­ba­ton hit a three-run homer, Daniel Mur­phy pro­vided more-ex­pected pro­duc­tion by driv­ing in a pair of in­sur­ance runs, and Wash­ing­ton’s bullpen threw 4 2⁄3 score­less in­nings Sun­day.

WASH­ING­TON » Jose Lo­ba­ton got the chance to play in the postseason be­cause of a team­mate’s late-Septem­ber in­jury and, boy, did the lit­tle-used backup catcher make the most of it.

Lo­ba­ton hit a three-run homer, Daniel Mur­phy pro­vided more-ex­pected pro­duc­tion by driv­ing in a pair of in­sur­ance runs, and Wash­ing­ton’s bullpen threw 4 2/3 score­less in­nings Sun­day, lead­ing the Na­tion­als past the Los An­ge­les Dodgers 5-2 in a rain-post­poned Game 2 to even their NL Di­vi­sion Se­ries at 1-all.

The Na­tion­als trailed 2-0 in the fourth when No. 8 hit­ter Lo­ba­ton put them ahead for good by con­nect­ing off a curve­ball from Rich Hill af­ter the Dodgers left-han­der walked Mur­phy and hit a bat­ter.

Hard to see this com­ing: Lo­ba­ton did not do much at the plate in 2016, bat­ting .232 in only 99 at-bats over­all, in­clud­ing 1 for 15 against left­ies. Then again, that lone hit was also a homer, and also against the Dodgers — off Scott Kazmir in July.

Lo­ba­ton didn’t even start the play­off opener, in fact. He sat be­hind rookie Pe­dro Sev­erino, who had played all of 18 games in the ma­jors.

Mur­phy, in con­trast, has been Wash­ing­ton’s best hit­ter all sea­son, con­sid­ered a top con­tender for league MVP hon­ors. In­deed, fans chanted those three letters af­ter each hit as he went 3 for 3, in­clud­ing RBI sin­gles in the fifth and sev­enth.

The Dodgers had gone ahead on Corey Sea­ger’s se­cond first-inning homer of the se­ries and Josh Red­dick’s run-scor­ing sin­gle in the third on a play at home in which Lo­ba­ton couldn’t hold onto Bryce Harper’s throw home from right. Both runs came against Tan­ner Roark, who lasted 4 1/3 in­nings.

Five Na­tion­als re­liev­ers did the rest, with Mark Me­lan­con work­ing around a sin­gle in the ninth — the lone hit al­lowed by the hosts’ bullpen — to earn the save. Blake Treinen went 1 1/3 in­nings and got the win.

All in all, NL East cham­pion Wash­ing­ton used the same for­mula that NL West win­ner LA did in Game 1 and, truly, all year: hit the ball over the fence and rely on shut­down re­lief.

And af­ter the Na­tion­als wasted plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to score in a 4-3 loss on Fri­day, it was the Dodgers’ turn to come up short in the clutch: Los An­ge­les left the bases loaded three times.

The best-of-five se­ries shifts to Los An­ge­les for Game 3 on Mon­day af­ter­noon, with Game 4 there on Tues­day, cre­at­ing an un­usual three-con­sec­u­tive-days setup in the play­offs, thanks to the loss of a travel day.

Game 2 orig­i­nally was sup­posed to be played Satur­day, when heavy show­ers in the morn­ing and early af­ter­noon — and a fore­cast that promised more — prompted Ma­jor League Base­ball to push it into Sun­day’s planned off day. The rain had dis­ap­peared by an hour past the orig­i­nal first-pitch time, though, and 20-20 hind­sight said that the game could have been played.

This one was played un­der a blue sky but in wind that topped 30 mph and the tem­per­a­ture in the 60s that prompted some players to wear wool caps dur­ing pregame warmups.

The Na­tion­als went ahead 3-2 in the fourth, fi­nally get­ting to Hill — who went 4 1/3 in­nings — in the un­like­li­est of ways. Af­ter a walk and two quick outs, he plunked Danny Espinosa for the se­cond time; Wash­ing­ton’s short­stop has struck out in his other five NLDS plate ap­pear­ances.

That mis­take proved costly when the next bat­ter, Lo­ba­ton, put the ball into the vis­i­tors’ bullpen beyond left field, lead­ing to chants of “N-A-T-S! Nats, Nats, Nats, Woooo!” from a sell­out crowd of 43,826.


Na­tion­als: With RHP Joe Ross com­ing off a re­cent trip to the dis­abled list with an in­flamed right shoul­der, man­ager Dusty Baker still did not want to com­mit to his Game 4 and Game 5 start­ing pitch­ers. One pos­si­bil­ity would be that Ross could pitch in Game 4, with Game 1 loser Scherzer start­ing Game 5.


Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als re­lief pitcher Marc Rzepczyn­ski, left, and Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als left fielder Jayson Werth (28) cel­e­brate dur­ing Game 2 of base­ball’s Na­tional League Di­vi­sion Se­ries against the Los An­ge­les Dodgers, at Na­tion­als Park, Sun­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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