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Nats' Jose Lobaton's series-changing homer defied odds, elements

Nats' Jose Lobaton's series-changing homer defied odds, elements

Jose Lobaton's three-run, series-altering homer to lift the Nationals to an NLDS Game 2 victory over the Dodgers on Sunday wasn't just surprising because of the man who hit it, because it came from a backup catcher only playing due to an injury. The fact he swung from the right side was also unexpected, given just 16 percent of his at-bats this year were right-handed. But that's not why Lobaton's teammates and coaches, or why Lobaton himself was so shocked it left the park.

No, this particular afternoon at Nationals Park had an extra element to it that made what Lobaton pulled off such a remarkable feat. The wind was so strong it howled in the upper concourse. It swirled and turned towards home plate, pushing just about everything hit to left field back where it came from.

"I've never played a game here with the wind blowing in from left that hard. This game is crazy," veteran Jayson Werth, who has been playing games consistently at Nationals Park since it opened in 2008, said.

"I didn't think anybody could hit a home run out of left field today, the way that wind was blowing everything back," manager Dusty Baker said. "I mean, he had to hit it a ton."

Limited by a sore right ankle, which affected the push from his back leg, Lobaton spent much of his week hitting batting practice from the left side. He hadn't taken an in-game at-bat hitting righty in over a month.

[RELATED: Lobaton unlikely hero as Nats win Game 2, draw even in NLDS]

Yet, somehow he got the ball in the air with enough zip to defy what the rest of his team had accepted as a temporary law of nature, that nothing hit that way was going out, no matter how powerful the source.

"When he hit it, there was a bunch of people in the dugout were cussing because we didn't think he could get it out. All kinds of expletives were being thrown around," Werth said.

Then, it kept going.

"I know he hit it good," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "But every ball that was going to left was getting hit down. [Dodgers left fielder Andrew] Toles, he just kept going back and going back and I was like 'maybe it's got a chance.'"

Lobaton sprinted to first base initially, watching the ball continue to carry. He watched the ball. He kept his eye on Toles.

"I remember the inning before, I was talking to the umpire and I told him 'wow, that wind is really bad for hitters now,'" Lobaton said. "Then, when I hit the ball, I thought I hit it good but I didn't know if it was going to go out. When it went out, I was like 'wow, that's pretty cool!'"

"If Mother Nature wanted to keep it in the yard, I guess she would have," outfielder Bryce Harper said. "But the baseball gods overran her, I guess."

[RELATED: Did Roark intentionally throw at Corey Seager?]

By clearing the fence, Lobaton gave the Nationals their first lead of the NLDS, a 3-2 advantage they would build on in their 5-2 win. It was perfectly-timed lift that flipped the game's momentum in the Nationals' favor.

It also came from a spot that was supposed to be for Wilson Ramos, the team's All-Star catcher that went down in the final week of the regular season with a torn right ACL.

"I love [Ramos] as a friend," Lobaton said. "But it's part of the game… "We don't have Wily. I've got to try to do something for the team. I'm not saying that I'm going to be like Wily and hit a homer and hit .300, but I'm going to do something."

"I'm just so happy for Loby, man," Zimmerman said. "He really deserves it. Wily was obviously having a great year and he didn't get to play that much. He stays ready, he works hard every day. Now he's got an opportunity."

Lobaton followed up a strong outing for fellow catcher Pedro Severino in Game 1. The rookie backstop doubled and scored in the Nats' series-opening loss on Friday. The two are a combined 2-for-7 with a double, homer, three RBI and two runs. They have also worked with the Nationals' pitching staff to hold the Dodgers to just six total runs through two games.

Baker has two catchers who are proving capable as Ramos replacements. But it looks like Lobaton will stay in there for Game 3 on Monday, set for 4:08 p.m. ET in Los Angeles.

"He'll probably be starting against [Kenta] Maeda and catching Gio [Gonzalez] tomorrow," Baker said. "Boy, just keep it coming."

[RELATED: Ramos' first pitch provides special moment for Nats]


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Nationals Game 5 meltdown yet another reminder why D.C. can't have nice things

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Nationals Game 5 meltdown yet another reminder why D.C. can't have nice things

On Thursday night, a Washington, D.C. pro sports team did something Washington, D.C. pro sports teams are very good at doing: fall short of making a league or championship game.

The Nationals' disastrous fifth inning against the Cubs in Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series was the beginning of the end, not to mention yet another in a long line of disappointing playoff results for Washington, D.C. sports teams.

You see, Washington, D.C. is the only city with at least three major pro sports teams to not have a single one make a conference or league championship game since 2000.

To make matters worse, Washington, D.C. sports teams have now lost 16 consecutive playoff games in which a win would've advanced the team to the conference or league championship. 

Think about that for a second. Four teams. Zero conference championship appearances since 1998. 

Here's the list.

Washington, D.C. sports fans are not greedy. We can't be. We've had some very good teams recently, with the type of talent, coaching and intangibles needed to win a championship. 


The last time a major Washington, D.C. pro sports team won a world championship was in 1992 when the Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI.  The last time a major Washington, D.C. pro sports team even made a conference championship game was in 1998, when the Capitals advanced to the Eastern Conference Final, defeating the Sabres to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Washington, D.C. isn't allowed to have nice sports things.

Sure, we have great players and great teams, but when the playoffs roll around, all the nice things go away. We aren't privy to plucky upstarts who run the table and we aren't privy to dominant teams that make long postseason runs.

Washington, D.C. will have its day, eventually. Sure it may only be a conference championship appearance, but for us, that's fine. We don't expect world championships. We just want something to get invested in.

Early playoff exits are rarely worth the investment.

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With contractual decisions looming, Nats missed chance at stress-free World Series run

With contractual decisions looming, Nats missed chance at stress-free World Series run

"This is the year."

That's the motto for almost every D.C. sports fan when their team is headed for the postseason.

The Nats led a weak NL East the entire season and clinched a spot to play October baseball early into September.


The team overcame the obstacle of being plagued with injuries and with pitchers like Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer having a strong bullpen to back them up, the stars were aligning for the team to go all the way.

But now with players like Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy having contracts up for grabs in 2019, Nationals reporter Chelsea Janes says 2017 was really the last chance for the team to win a stress-free title.

"I think those questions you've raised like Bryce [Harper's] contract, [Daniel} Murphy may be leaving, you know Rizzo's contract's up after next year, I think those are the things they didn't have to deal with this year that made this such a free chance," Janes said on the Sports Junkies Friday.

"It was a free chance to just feel good and do it now and not have everyone say this is your absolute last chance, and next year it's their absolute last chance for a little while, I think."

"I mean they're not going to be awful in '19, but they're going to be different and I think they've sort of wasted their free pass here and there's legitimate and kind of unrelenting pressure on them next year to make it happen."

It's hard to make sense of what a team will look like one day after a devastating series loss. One thing that is fairly certain is that time is ticking for the Nats to make it happen with arguably the most talented group of players they've ever had.