Despite the advantage of having Max Scherzer on the mound, the Nationals lost 2-1 against the Cubs in Game 3 of the NLDS on Monday afternoon.
When it comes to a match up as fair as the Cubs and the Nationals, outcomes depend heavily on the pitching staff. However, the blame for this particular loss is not on Max Scherzer but on Dusty Baker. The team was ahead 1-0 as Max was working on a no-hitter in the 7th inning when he gave up one double to Zobrist. Baker was overly cautious about Scherzer’s calve injury and replaced him with Solis in the middle of the 7th inning.
Now this is where Baker’s decision is highly questionable, Max Scherzer currently holds a 2017 ERA of 2.52, was working on a no hitter up until the 7th, gives up one run and Dusty Baker replaces him with Sammy Solis who’s ERA is dangerously close to 6. Literally, immediately after the swap, Solis gave up one hit to Almora Jr. who singled to left center for Zobrist to score. Then, again, immediately after that, he gave up another single to Heyward. Dusty attempted some damage control after his mistake by swapping Solis out for left-handed pitcher, Brandon Kintzler.
Kintzler’s October ERA of 3.86 is a little better, but not really. The lefty walked La Stella and gave up a 1B hit in the 8th inning before Dusty orchestrated another swap with Oliver Perez (4.64 ERA in 2017).
Perez then instantly gave up a hit to Rizzo, which was dropped in the outfield by Michael A. Taylor allowing Martin (who was on second base) enough time to make it to home for a 2-1 lead. Murphy struck out, Zimmerman grounded out to second, and Werth popped out to first to end the game at a loss.
The Nationals have been cursed with an inadequate bullpen for many years until now. So, why? When you’ve got a starter like Max Scherzer and closers like Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle with ERA’s dropping below 3, why would you consider putting in pitchers like Solis and Kintzler during the NLDS? Dusty Baker may never live that game down.
Luckily, the team won Game 4 tonight with Strasburg at the wheel. Looks like we’re going back to DC for Game 5! Can the Nationals finally break the curse and make it past round one of the playoffs? Put spoons under your pillows, wear your pajamas inside out and if you’re religious, say a little prayer.
Let’s go Nats.