The Nationals 4-3 loss to the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NL Division Series was defined by starter Max Scherzer’s early struggles and the offense’s squandered opportunities against Clayton Kershaw. Though Washington finds itself in a 1-0 hole, there were a few positive developments that came out of Friday’s game that could pay dividends as the series progresses.
Zimmerman’s return: For most of the season, Dusty Baker has called Ryan Zimmerman his “hard luck” guy; the hitter that has squared up his fair share of pitches only to have them land right at a defender. On Friday night, the veteran first baseman finally had a few of those well-struck balls fall for hits. Zimmerman finished the game 2-for-4 with a pair of single off Kershaw and couple of deep fly outs that briefly looked like they’d leave the yard.
“I thought that I had a really good approach tonight,” Zimmerman said. “I hit three balls hard off of Clayton and then just missed a slider off of Baez there. I feel good, so hopefully I can carry that into tomorrow and hopefully for a lot more games here this month.”
“It was real good. He was being aggressive,” Baker added. “He's seeing the ball well and it's right on time. We anticipate more of that tomorrow, during the game. And he just missed two home runs, one to right and one to left. And so, that's a great sign, when he's hitting the ball like that.”
Severino’s impresses in playoff debut: Obviously, the Nats would much rather have Wilson Ramos as their starting catcher in the playoffs. But with the All-Star lost with an ACL tear, it was up to rookie Pedro Severino to pick up the slack. And the result, to the surprise of some, was much better than expected. The 23-year-old went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored off Kershaw.
"Very excited to participate and try to enjoy the moment,” he said through an interpreter.
“He did a great job,” Baker said. “He did a great job calling pitches. He hit a couple balls extremely hard....Seve was Seve. He has good life. You know that he's exuberant. You know that he wants to win.”
In addition to what he did at the plate, Severino served as Scherzer's battery mate for just the second time in his career.
“I’m very excited and grateful that Scherzer gave me the confidence to catch him and we did a pretty good job of limiting the damage out there,” Severino said. “We’re working very well as a unit. We were able to keep the team in the game 4-0 and kept it there.”
Baker said that Severino will likely be on the bench to start Game 2 because of Jose Lobaton's career numbers against starter Rich Hill. But if Game 1 was indication, the moment isn't too big for the rookie catcher.
Solis shines, too: Speaking of first-time contributors, Sammy Solis acquitted himself quite well in his first-ever playoff appearance. Coming in relief of Scherzer in the seventh inning, the 28-year-old lefty pitched two scoreless frames to keep the deficit at 4-3. That Baker went to Solis immediately after taking out Scherzer demonstrates a growing trust in someone who has become the bullpen's most reliable south paw.
Robinson’s ends extra-base drought: After the All-Star break, reserve first baseman Clint Robinson was 26-for-103 — all of those hits singles. In fact, his last extra-base hit came on a July 8 home run against the New York Mets. So, as the baseball gods would have it, that drought ended in his first at-bat of the playoffs. He came through with a two-out pinch-hit double in the eighth inning off Dodgers closer Kenlsey Jansen. The two-bagger was not only set up the Nats’ last legitimate scoring opportunity of the night, but it was their only hit off Jansen, who converted a five-out save.