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Washington Nationals roster review: Jose Lobaton

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Washington Nationals roster review: Jose Lobaton

Age on Opening Day 2016: 31

How acquired: Trade with Rays, Feb. 2014

MLB service time: 4 years, 138 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $1.2 million

Contract status: Arbitration eligible, free agent in 2018

2015 stats: 44 G, 155 PA, 11 R, 27 H, 4 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 15 BB, 40 SO, .199 AVG, .279 OBP, .294 SLG, .573 OPS, 2 E, -0.3 WAR

2015 analysis: Jose Lobaton played in only 44 games in 2015 and there was a good reason for that. Primary catcher Wilson Ramos was finally able to stay healthy and caught a career-high 128 games, thus forcing Lobaton to take a reduced role.

Whether it was the sparse playing time or not, Lobaton did not have a very good year at the plate. He hit just .199 and didn't even crack the .300 mark with his slugging percentage. Lobaton didn't provide much of anything on offense for the Nationals this year, his second season with the team.

Lobaton was, however, pretty good on defense, at least when he worked with Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez' ERA was 3.39 through 20 games with Lobaton, much lower than the 4.52 mark he had working with Ramos. Lobaton also drew positive reviews this season for his ability to frame pitches.

Basically, Lobaton was a seldom-needed backup this season who was much more valuable on defense than he was on offense.

2016 outlook: Lobaton is under contract for the 2016 season and as of now appears to be in the Nationals' plans for next year. He is a valuable asset as an experienced No. 2 catcher and being a switch-hitter doesn't hurt.

Lobaton's future could come down to what the Nationals decide this offseason about Ramos as a starting catcher. He was a Gold Glove finalist and Mike Rizzo gave him a vote of confidence at the GM meetings last week. But Ramos did not have the season on offense many of us thought he was capable of if he stayed healthy. That puts catcher as a sort of wild card as a potential need this winter.

If the Nationals decide to upgrade at the catcher position - and whether that is even possible is unclear - that could certainly affect Lobaton. But for now he certainly appears to be safe as the Nats' backup with Ramos as the starter ahead of him.

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Blue jerseys continue to be lucky for Washington Nationals

Blue jerseys continue to be lucky for Washington Nationals

A historic win in the World Series opener means only one thing for the Washington Nationals: They'll stick with the blue jerseys.

The team is now - as MLB Network pointed out - 8-0 when wearing their blue jerseys in the postseason.

And while not changing the jersey color might seem a little extreme - after all didn't this win have a little more to do with Juan Soto for example - as our Caroline Brandt discovered before the World Series, the Nationals are far from the only ones holding tight to any sort of luck they can find in their first World Series trip.

Here are some more interesting numbers from the win: 


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Nationals use everything they have to pull out Game 1, take World Series lead

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals use everything they have to pull out Game 1, take World Series lead

HOUSTON -- Every bullet, every angle, every idea.

The Nationals used all their options Tuesday night in Texas to wheezingly hang on for a 5-4 win against Houston and claim a 1-0 lead in the World Series. Max Scherzer made it through five innings -- barely. The bullpen did enough -- barely. The lineup found a way --- barely.

Together, it was enough for an upset in Game 1 for a team expected to be pushed swiftly out of the postseason, yet keeps finding new ways to fill the holes they create.

Scherzer walked off the mound following the first in a scenario the Nationals would have pushed toward worst-case. His pitch count was up and they immediately trailed against Cole, who allowed one earned run in 22 ⅔ innings this postseason. 

Yuli Gurriel hit a high 1-2 fastball off the wall in left-center field to deliver the Astros an early lead. George Springer and Jose Altuve scored to leverage the game heavily toward the Astros just five batters into it. What was to come beyond the first inning also became a concern. 

Houston entered the game with the fewest strikeouts in the league. It also led the league in walk rate. The push-and-pull between the Astros’ hitters and Washington’s starters stood as a central theme for the series. The Nationals need their starters to pitch as long as possible to keep their main flaw, the middle of their bullpen, at bay. Against Cole the concept is all the more crucial.

Scherzer’s 96th pitch produced a dribbler from Jose Altuve with two runners on base in the fourth. He sprinted to first to catch a toss from Ryan Zimmerman and close the inning. Nothing was easy, or clean, or enjoyable for him during the evening, when he was seemingly 10 rounds in shortly after the fight started.

The good news: Ryan Zimmerman hit the second pitch he saw in his first World Series for a sizzling home run to center field in the second. Juan Soto delivered an opposite-field solo home run to tie the game in the fourth. The Nationals had done what multiple teams had not in the postseason. They were getting to Cole.

Kurt Suzuki walked to open the fifth inning. Victor Robles singled. Trea Turner’s flyout pushed a tagging Suzuki to third. An Adam Eaton single brought him in. The Nationals led, 3-2, against a pitcher who was burning through the postseason the way few others had in history. Anthony Rendon’s fielder’s choice led to a second out. Soto arrived again, two on, two out, the spotlight acting more as fuel than inhibitor. 

Soto ventured into a 3-0 count. He took a slider then missed a changeup. Opponents hit .141 against Cole in full counts this season. A 3-2 slider sort of down, sort of away came next. Soto drove it to left field off the out-of-town scoreboard which had no out-of-town scores to show on Oct. 22. Eaton scored. Rendon scored. Minute Maid Park went quiet while Soto yelled at second base. His evolution took another step three days before his 21st birthday.

Wrinkles remained for Davey Martinez. How much longer should Scherzer pitch? Who would be next? Did he trust his relievers enough to use four of them, leaving Patrick Corbin rested for Game 3? Or, did “go 1-0” mean firing maximum bullets in the opener? 

Scherzer returned for the fifth to produce his first 1-2-3 inning of the night. Done after 112 pitches, he clenched a fist knowing his effort to absorb minor blows from Houston lasted long enough for his team to find a way against Cole.

Corbin came running in from the bullpen to start the sixth. He’s found a postseason niche since the National League Division Series, growing progressively more comfortable as a reliever following his rough run against Los Angeles. Corbin allowed a hit during a 21-pitch sixth. He, like Scherzer, clenched a fist when the final out of his appearance was recorded. 

Now, the rub. Corbin finished against the bottom of Houston’s order. Springer, Altuve and Michael Brantley were coming up in the bottom of the seventh. Tanner Rainey came in.

Springer homered on a 99-mph, 2-1 fastball. Fireworks were shot off. The crowd rebounded while Springer circled the bases. The trip moved him into history: Springer is now the only player in MLB postseason history to homer in five consecutive World Series games. He was tied with epic October ghosts Reggie Jackson and Lou Gehrig at four in a row. 

Altuve struck out via a rare flailing swing. Brantley walked on four pitches. Alex Bregman walked. Rainey was done.

Eights out remained. Only two pitching options, Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle, were at Martinez’s disposable. He chose Hudson to face Gurriel. His shallow pop out led to a second out. Carlos Correa’s infield single loaded the bases. Yordan Álvarez, an abnormal No. 7 hitter because of his 1.067 OPS this season, struck out on three pitches. Hudson threw eight total. He and Doolittle needed a way to six more outs.

Hudson returned in the eighth. A leadoff single ended up as another run when Springer doubled off the wall in right field. Eaton jumped, the ball hit the side of his glove and bounced off the wall. Washington’s lead dwindled to one. Heart palpitations increased. Houston’s crowd rose. Doolittle’s chance came after Altuve lined out to right field. He needed four outs, starting with Brantley. A liner to left delivered the first. Three outs to go through a thorn-filled group: Bregman, Gurriel and Correa.

Bregman struck out. Gurriel flew out. Correa flew out. The Nationals lined up to celebrate on the Astros’ home field.

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