Posted on October 10, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Mother Nature delayed Game 2 of the NLDS between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers by a day, and that extra day may have helped to wake up Washington’s bats. A three-run home run by Jose Lobaton, who’s only playing because of the injury to Wilson Ramos, gave the Nationals their first lead of the series and helped propel them to a win in Game 2. However, because Game 2 was pushed back by a day, the teams will be right back at it Monday afternoon in Los Angeles, a quick turnaround for an important Game 3 matchup with the series tied 1-1.
Second baseman Daniel Murphy was a huge thorn in the side of the Dodgers last year in the NLDS as a member of the New York Mets, and he was back at it again on Sunday. Last year, Murphy was 7 for 21 with three home runs and one opportunistic stolen base against the Dodgers in the NLDS to help the Mets eliminate Los Angeles, and he was in the middle of the Nationals win in Game 2.
On Sunday, Murphy was 3 for 3 with a walk and two RBIs, once again causing a world of trouble for the Dodgers. There were some questions about Murphy’s health heading into the series, but he appears to be just fine swinging the bat. Just like the NLDS against the Dodgers last year, Murphy has the chance to be a difference maker in the series if Los Angeles can’t find a way to cool him down.
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Game 3 will see Gio Gonzalez start for the Nationals, opposed by rookie Kenta Maeda, who will start for the Dodgers. Gonzalez looked worn down late in the season, struggling in four of his final five starts, and doing so against second-division teams, so he may not enter the playoffs with a great deal of confidence. Nevertheless, he does have three career postseason starts and has had plenty of rest since the end of the regular season. Also, the fact that he’s a lefty could force the Dodgers to make some lineup changes, as Los Angeles has quite a few lefties, including Chase Utley, Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Reddick.
As for Maeda, the Dodgers made an effort to get him as much rest as possible down the stretch to make sure he’s well rested for the postseason. Maeda may be the only right-handed starter the Nationals face in this series, so the Nationals will be looking to take advantage of that. How well Maeda is able to handle lefties Murphy and Bryce Harper could determine how effective he is against the Washington lineup.
Fatigue could end up being the biggest X-factor in Game 3. Both teams are in the same boat, as each had to fly across the country after Sunday’s game and will now have to play Game 3 Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. local time in Los Angeles. Whatever team can handle that quick turnaround the best may have an advantage. On top of that, both teams used five different relief pitchers in Game 2, so a tired bullpen could also factor into the equation.
The Dodgers become Game 3 favorites, as the series shifts back to Los Angeles. Neither team has received great performances from their starting pitchers the first two games, and both starters in Game 3 are a bit of a wild card, so this is anybody’s game to win. Once again, Murphy will be the catalyst against the Dodgers, and he will lift the Nationals to a win and a 2-1 series lead. Washington wins 6-4.