The Dodgers have beaten the Nationals, 8-4 in Game 3 of this NLDS. The Dodgers have taken a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series as a result. Here are some more things to know about Game 3 and the state of the series.
1. Dodgers’ sixth was a two-out, two-strike bloodbath
Cody Bellinger led off with a single in the sixth inning, but two strikeouts followed. Would you believe the Dodgers then proceeded to score a whopping seven runs before the final out was recorded? It started innocently enough with a David Freese grounder finding a hole before Russell Martin gave the Dodgers their first lead with a two-RBI double.
That’s a franchise record for runs in an inning. Not only did every run come with two outs, every run came with two strikes, too. That’s the first time that has ever happened in the playoffs. Ridiculous.
2. Kendrick’s baserunning gaffe was costly
The Nationals were actually mounting what could have been a similar rally to the Dodgers’ in the bottom of the sixth. They had already scored one run and had the bases loaded with no outs for pinch hitter Asdrubal Cabrera. The tying run on deck with nobody out is a real opportunity to climb back into the game. Cabrera hitting a sac fly wasn’t a bad result at all. So the Nationals would have had an 8-4 deficit with one out and more chances to score coming up.
Instead, Howie Kendrick did this.
That’s brutal. That simply cannot happen down four. Michael Taylor would follow with a harmless popout and the Nationals only got two back.
3. Sanchez gave Nats outstanding work
Amid three aces in Patrick Corbin (we’ll get to him), Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, it is a big step down to quality fourth starter Anibal Sanchez. Surely Dodgers fans felt better when it was announced Sanchez would get the ball in Game 3. Instead, he worked out of a self-inflicted jam in the first inning and was brilliant. He did cough up the Max Muncy homer in the fifth, but Sanchez had everything — especially his “Bugs Bunny” changeup working and held the Dodgers in check through five innings. He gave up only the one run on four hits while striking out nine. He only allowed three hard hit balls and mixed his six-pitch arsenal very well.
Via MLB Stats, Sanchez is the oldest pitcher with nine strikeouts in a playoff game since Randy Johnson in the 2001 World Series.
This was all the Nationals could have asked for from the veteran.
4. Corbin didn’t hold up his end
The Nats were always going to have to lean very heavily on their trio of aces this postseason and while the other two were two of the main reasons the Nats won the Wild Card Game and Game 2, Corbin hasn’t been good. In Game 1, he took the loss and while he only allowed two earned runs, he walked five and walked home a run in the first. He walked two more in 2/3 of an inning in Game 3 and was torched for six earned runs in that fateful sixth inning.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez already has so few relievers he can truly rely upon, but now it looks like one of his supposed sure things can’t be counted on, either.
5. Ryu worked out of jams
Dodgers starter Hyun-jin Ryu wasn’t outstanding, but credit him for getting out of some tough spots, particularly in the fourth inning. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto started things off with singles. He then got a flyout and induced a grounder that resulted in an inning-ending double play. That was a big moment, as it turns out. He also worked around traffic in the fifth.
Take note of the Kendrick baserunning mistake above and the Nationals really did not take advantage of scoring opportunities like the Dodgers did in the sixth. That was the difference in the game.
6. Is Bellinger fixed?
Bellinger, the likely NL MVP, was 0 for 8 to start this series, but then he started the rally in the sixth and doubled later that inning. The double was a scorching 112.1 miles per hour off the bat and his swing was picture perfect. He hit a warning track fly on his last at-bat. It seems his slump might be a thing of the past.
7. Soto in good company
It got lost in the shuffle of the Dodgers’ sixth inning, but the reason the Nats had a lead — other than Sanchez — was Juan Soto’s two-run homer in the first inning. He’s still only 20 years old and that makes him the sixth-youngest player ever to homer in the playoffs:
As noted, that’s good company.
8. Game 4 look ahead
Historically, in baseball five-game series, the team that has taken a 2-1 lead has won 33 of the 45 series. The team up 2-1 is 20-8 in the 2-2-1 format, so, yes, the Nationals are up against it here. It’s not an impossible climb, but it’s a tall order.
Fortunately for the Nationals, the Game 4 pitching matchup heavily favors them with Max Scherzer taking on Rich Hill. Unfortunately for the Nationals, if Scherzer doesn’t throw a shutout, their bullpen is in tatters.
Bear in mind also the Nationals have never been out of the divisional round and the Dodgers are looking for their fourth straight trip to the NLCS. Game 4 will take place in Nationals Park at 6:40 p.m. ET.