The Washington Nationals have their backs up against the walls in the NLDS as they look to avoid another playoff series loss.
Things were going so well for the Washington Nationals through five innings of Game 3 of their NLDS matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Spot starter Anibal Sanchez had stifled the Dodgers’ bats with his fluttering changeup, striking out nine and leaving with a 2-1 lead. Things were going exactly according to manager Dave Roberts‘ plan — get as much out of Sanchez as possible before passing the baton to Patrick Corbin who would presumably deliver two or three innings of ace-caliber relief.
Corbin entered, and the Nationals lead was gone in the blink of an eye. After getting two outs with relative ease, Corbin surrendered a single, two doubles and two walks, turning a 2-1 lead into a 5-2 deficit. Wander Suero relieved, Justin Turner launched a three-run dinger into orbit and the game was effectively over.
The loss was a tough pill to swallow for the Nationals, who entered Game 3 supremely confident in their ability to ride three aces across the finish line with as little help from a terrible bullpen as possible. Now, they’ll face two elimination games without the benefit of being able to turn to an All-Star starter for help in innings seven through nine.
It does look bleak for the Nationals, but they cannot be counted out with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg fully rested and ready for Games 4 and 5. If there’s one duo capable of pulling a team from the brink of elimination, it’s this one.
3. Anthony Rendon delivers a big blow
Twenty-year-old outfielder Juan Soto has provided all of the offensive highlights for the Nationals so far in the playoffs, delivering the game-winning hit in the Wild Card Game and crushing a two-run homer in Game 3 that temporarily gave the Nationals the lead. Third baseman Anthony Rendon, an MVP candidate like Soto, hasn’t been as loud with his highlights, but has been steady at the plate so far in the series. Rendon has reached base six times in three games with a .300/.462/.400 line.
Rendon is a .232/.338/.348 career hitter in the playoffs with only four extra-base hits and seven RBI in 18 games. He is off to his best start in a playoff series so far in the NLDS, but the Nationals will need him to come up with some sort of power if they are to win the final two games of this series.
Outside of Soto and Rendon, the Nationals haven’t gotten much out of their lineup so far in the postseason. The pitching matchups don’t get any easier the rest of the series against the Dodgers. If the tide is going to turn back to the Nationals, they’ll need Rendon to step up and join Soto in producing big, momentum-shifting hits.