In this game 3 loss to the Cubs, the Nats got beat technically by a bloop single in the 8th inning, but some simple moves were never made which included a strategic defensive change at the top of the 7th inning when the Nationals had a 1-to-0 lead to bring in Victor Robles for Jayson Werth. It seemed so basic when you have a narrow lead and need “best defense”. We saw the impact of poor defense when the Cubs leftfielder Kyle Schwarber booted a ball to cost the Cubs a run, but Joe Maddon has always made late inning defensive moves and luckily for the Nationals that Schwarber was still in the game in the 6th inning.
There was also a deja vu feeling of this game back to Game #5 of last year’s NLDS when Max Scherzer had a shutout through 6.0 innings and came out for the 7th inning giving up what would turn out to be a tying run in a 1-to-0 game which was the same score Scherzer had last year in Game #5 and today. The big difference was that Scherzer had a no-hitter to go with his shut-out for 6 1/3 innings today, and he was totally dominant today with no signs of the hamstring issue that had sidelined him for a few days.
Look how close Jayson Werth was to snagging the first hit of the game (video below) in the 7th inning which turned out to be the baserunner who would turn into the first Cubs run scored. Why wasn’t Victor Robles in this game for defense at this point in the game?
In the highest leverage spot with Ben Zobrist on 2nd base representing the tying run after that double with the Nats still leading 1-to-0, Dusty Baker went to his 5th or 6th arm in the bullpen having Sammy Solis face Kyle Schwarber and Joe Maddon countered with Albert Almora to pinch-hit for Schwarber. At first it seemed like Dusty Baker was thinking ahead and Solis was simply in the game to force a move by Maddon to remove Schwarber but Dusty pitched to Almora shifting the advantage to the Cubs. My suggestion was walk Almora with first base open to set-up the doubleplay and bring in sinkerballer Brandon Kintzler. The other suggestion was to bring in one your best relievers at that point instead of Solis and close-down the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings and get the last 8 outs of the ball game.
It didn’t take long for Almora to drive the run in and tie the game. Brandon Kintzler was brought in and quickly got a doubleplay on a line drive to centerfield in which Michael Taylor made a nice running catch and the runner was caught off the base to complete the 7th inning.
In the 8th inning, Kintzler stayed in to face the lead-off man which was pinch-hitter Tommy LaStella and he worked a lead-off walk. Jon Jay then sacrificed the runner to 2nd base and Kintzler struck-out Kris Bryant. With 2 outs and the runner on 2nd base, Dusty Baker went to Oliver Perez to face Anthony Rizzo instead of walking him and go direct to Ryan Madson to face Willson Contreras. Oliver Perez made his pitch and Anthony Rizzo popped it up to centerfield but Michael Taylor didn’t go aggressively after the ball. We don’t know why it wasn’t a “can of corn” but it appears that Taylor was possibly playing deep but he stopped running when approaching the ball as you will see in this video (below).
“I thought Taylor was going to make a sliding play there,” Anthony Rizzo said about his bloop game-winning single. “I was lucky there.”
Taylor took responsibility for bloop. Said that can't fall with three guys standing on their feet. Felt as CF, he should've done something.
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) October 10, 2017
In other moves that were not made, we discussed when Ryan Zimmerman hit his run scoring double in the 6th inning against reliever Pedro Strop that Dusty Baker could counter and pinch-hit for Jayson Werth with Adam Lind. It would have been a move you should consider as you needed to make the defensive change but no changes were made in the game except for relievers. None of the Nationals 6 bench players were used in the game in any situation. By the way, Jayson Werth got into an 0-2 count against Pedro Strop and popped-up to rightfield for the 3rd out in the inning.
The Nationals had other chances to score. They had Michael Taylor on 2nd base and no outs in the 3rd inning thanks to a “gift” error on Jose Quintana, but Max Scherzer struck-out trying to bunt Michael Taylor to 3rd base. Taylor was stranded at 2nd base.
Much of the credit for the Nationals scoring only 1 run was excellent defense from Jason Heyward and Jon Jay on two deep flies (here) and (here) that would have each scored runs. Ben Zobrist also robbed a single off of Trea Turner to lead-off the 8th inning.
When it came down to it, the Cubs made the plays.