Analysis: Matt Wieters to the Nationals – Scott Boras and the Lerners do it again

“When I met the Lerners their franchise was worth $400 million. Now it’s worth $2 billion.” -Scott Boras

Last week on the Jonah Keri podcast, Scott Boras sat down for a wide-ranging hour-long conversation on his business and the future of baseball. It was a rare illuminating glimpse into one of baseball’s most influential people. 

Among other topics, Boras discussed his philosophy when he’s selling a client to an MLB team. The above quote best demonstrates his strategy. Boras doesn’t sell the player, he sells his vision of the team with his client on the roster. To Boras, a free agent contract isn’t a simple exchange of services for money. Boras doesn’t advertise the free agent, he paints a mosaic for the owner/GM, where his client is the missing piece to something far greater. Boras isn’t selling a player, he’s giving the team something it doesn’t already otherwise have–a pennant, a playoff appearance, a higher franchise value.

Boras’ strategy has been enormously successful over his career. This approach is how Boras convinced Rangers owner Tom Hicks to give Alex Rodriguez $80 million more than the next highest bidder. Three years after that record-shattering $250 million dollar contract, Hicks couldn’t wait to get rid of it, and he eventually paid the Yankees to take it. Despite this, Boras’ worldview compelled him to say on Keri’s podcast last week, “the Rangers made money on the Alex Rodriguez contract.” And he might be right. 

Boras has taken this approach to the Nationals ownership group with great success. The Lerners, as real estate developers, are probably the perfect target. And since 2011, no agent and team have been more closely aligned than Boras and the Nats. Jayson Werth signed perhaps the the most shocking free agency contract since the above-mentioned A-Rod deal. Boras used his above sales pitch, and Rizzo and the Lerners bought it. To Boras, Werth wasn’t just a good outfielder with decent power and above-average defense.* He was a franchise cornerstone player–the kind of player the Nats needed to transition from non-descript quasi-expansion team to flagship National League franchise.  More Boras clients followed–Edwin Jackson in 2012 as the missing piece to an otherwise contending rotation, Rafael Soriano as the missing door closer on a team who couldn’t quite close the door the previous season, and of course Stephen Strasburg as the ace willing to forego free agency for the right price. 

*seriously, this used to be true 

And today, Matt Wieters. 8 years ago, Boras probably imagined Wieters first free agent contract to be a lot bigger than 2 years and $21 million. Wieters was a first round pick and consensus number one prospect in baseball back in 2008-09. His first game in Baltimore received a taste of the fanfare Nats fans would later see with Stephen Strasburg’s and Bryce Harper’s MLB debuts. Wieters was supposed to be a switch-hitting Mike Piazza with elite defense. Orioles fans passed around Chuck Norris-style “Matt Wieters facts.” He was a folk hero before he swung a bat in an MLB game. 

Well, Superman never put on his Matt Wieters pajamas. His first seven seasons on Baseball Reference don’t look like the first half of a Hall of Fame career. Despite that, Wieters actual production has outrun his probably undeserved reputation as a bust. He’s made four All Star teams. He hit more than 20 home runs three consecutive seasons. He even received MVP votes in 2012, winning a gold glove and leading the Orioles to the first of three playoff appearances in five seasons. 

Still, Wieters saw a slow decline as he approached free agency. His last four seasons look a lot like a league average catcher. Serviceable, but not worth forfeiting a first round pick. Wieters signed his qualifying offer last year after and injury-shortened 2015 season. His .243/.302/.409 2016 didn’t set him up for the payday he was hoping for. 

On the Keri podcast, Boras discussed the value of a catcher to a contending team. Since Boras is a salesman, assume he’s always selling. And his message was clear: a pennant winner needs a catcher. The subtext was even more clear: I have a free agent catcher for the team who needs one. 

The Nationals wisely let Wilson Ramos sign with Tampa Bay, who have time to let him fully heal his knee injury. Even if they brought back Ramos, there was no way the Nats could reproduce the production they received at catcher last year. 

Still, before today, it looked like the Nats had settled on the best of their bad options: a reclaimed Derek Norris or perhaps an ascendant Pedro Severino. A slugging catcher is a luxury. It looked like the Nats were prepared to make do. The foremost question arising from the Wieters signing is this one: did the Nats need to do this?

During the podcast, Keri asked Boras a question he couldn’t dodge. If he’s not getting traction from a front office, does he ever go above their heads, straight to ownership? Boras, in as many words, said yes. He goes to the people with the money–a different, perhaps less skeptical audience with the ability to sign the check. 

Think about the above quote. It’s absurd. There are a variety of factors that have driven franchise values into the atmosphere–cable tv, publicly funded stadiums, MLB advanced media. Even if Scott Boras is on that list, he’s way down there. Boras is simply riding a wave, trying to take credit for the tide’s gravitational pull. 

But perception is reality. And Boras successfully sold an alternate reality to the Lerners what their team would look like with Matt Wieters at catcher. 

Thanks to another Boras client, this team will look a lot different in 2019. The above quote is absurd, but it’s not inaccurate. Since meeting Boras, the Lerners have increased the value of their team five fold. I have no doubt Boras called them up told them exactly how much farther Matt Wieters will take it. 

Proposed rule changes for Major League Baseball

Yesterday, MLB floated the idea of starting extra innings with a runner on second base. This (radical) idea would be very effective. Extra innings would be more exciting and games would be shorter.

It’s also a remarkably stupid idea. I applaud the commissioner for thinking outside the box. I’d rather have a commissioner with too much imagination than one who is committed to outdated customs for all the wrong reasons. I congratulate Rob Manfred for being creative, but this idea falls on the wrong side of the creativity/stupidity scale. There are ways to improve baseball without fundamentally changing it. Putting a runner on second base to start an inning is a gimmick, not an improvement. It’s like a shootout in hockey or college football’s bizarre overtime system. It’s not necessary. 

Occasionally, I use this space to float my own ideas to improve baseball. The last time I did it, I proposed three rule changes to speed up games, which I think is necessary. I incorporate those changes by reference. They were:

1. Limit replay to 30 seconds. This is a no-brainer. If an umpire’s call isn’t obvious after 30 seconds, it’s not a big enough error to worry about. Keep the game moving. 

2. Eliminate warmup pitches for mid-inning pitching changes. Another no-brainer. The reliever has been warming up for 10 minutes. He doesn’t need more warmup pitches. If he’s too big of a snowflake to be thrown off by the new mound, let him start the inning. 

3. Make every reliever record one out.  I’m less wedded to this idea because there are probably unintended consequences I’m not considering.  It’s probably too radical of a change. Intriguing idea though. 

Now, here are my new ideas. I still think baseball games are too long. I know some people don’t consider longer baseball games to be a problem and it’s just “more of a good thing.” 

I disagree. 4 hour games don’t give you more baseball. They give you more dead time between the baseball. Yes, the pace of baseball builds tension and gives the game it’s unique atmosphere. But there has to be a limit. Baseball was just as charming and relaxing 50 years ago when the games were 30 minutes shorter. We’re moving in the wrong direction. 

In particular, innings 7-9 of MLB games are when things start to drag. Most of this is due to Tony LaRusa overmanaging and pitching changes. In addition to limiting the time it takes to change pitchers, I want to disincentivize managers from doing it. 

First, bring back the bullpen car. Bullpen cars disappeared a long time ago and I’m not sure why. Maybe groundskeepers had something to do with it. But eliminating the (sometimes slow) walk to the mound immediately takes minutes off of each game. Couple that with the elimination of warmup pitches, networks might not even need to go to commercial. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Second, MLB should limit the number of relievers a team can use a game by making teams designate one or two “inactive” players each game (the NFL does this). Fewer players available means fewer substitutions. Relievers may need to pitch full innings. This might increase offense since it might eliminate a few pitcher friendly hitting matchups, but I’m ok with that. Another side effect to this rule: fewer appearances will be healthier for the relievers, who struggle with an alarming high injury rate. Even the players union should be in favor of this rule. 

Finally–and this rule change has nothing to do with length of games–MLB needs to barnstorm. Last year, MLB played a regular season game on a military base. It was great. We need more of this. Baseball is a great game and this is a large country. Let’s get MLB games to ordinarily unreachable locations. They should make it a goal to play a game in all 50 states. Imagine a game at the Field of Dreams site in Iowa or a game at a pop-up field with the Grand Canyon as a backdrop. With a 162 game schedule, there is more than enough flexibility to do this. 

Adam Eaton Trade Analysis: Nationals make the first move of the post-Bryce Harper era

Like two friends just finishing a long road trip, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and White Sox GM Rick Hahn probably don’t want to talk to each other for a while. After spending the first half of MLB’s Winter Meetings trying–and failing–to complete a deal for ace pitcher Chris Sale, the two teams settled on a trade of Adam Eaton to the Nationals for three right-handed pitching prospects, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning.

This is an un-Rizzo trade.  We’re accustomed to the Nationals hoarding organization depth and then using it to secure valuable pieces from other teams while holding on to their top prospects.  In the past, Rizzo shops and shops until he finds a trade partner not demanding the best assets in the Nats farm system.  Think Alex Meyer for Denard Span or Robbie Ray for Doug Fister.  Each time, the top prospects were left untouched while Rizzo dipped into his secondary pool of talent.  Even this past season, Rizzo refused to touch his top prospects for Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman, instead dealing a lesser prospect for a lesser closer.  Secure the present, but always protect the future.

So it’s a little bit shocking to see Lucas Giolito–once considered the top pitching prospect in baseball, Reynaldo Lopez–a consensus 2016 Top 100 prospect, and Dane Dunning, a recent first round pick in the 2016 draft get traded for a non-household name.  Rizzo rarely breaks into his prospect vault.  To see him do it for a guy named Adam Eaton is a little bit shocking.

How to explain?

First, Eaton is more than you think.  He doesn’t have the name recognition–or trophy case–of Andrew McCutchen, also targeted in trade talks this week, but he might provide the better value to Nats.  Eaton is an amazingly consistent player (.287/.361./431 in 2015, .284/.362/.428 in 2016, 14 HRs each season).  He doesn’t grab MVP votes, but he’s the type of player a championship lineup covets.  He gets on base.  Plays defense.  Stays healthy.  He’s a player a savvy GM 10 years ago could have grabbed for cheap from a more traditional GM still wedded to baseball card stats.  He reminds me of Ben Zobrist or Jason Heyward (2014-15 version).  I refer to Zobrist and Heyward because those players were acquired last season by the best GM in baseball, Theo Epstein, who’s on the phone right now giving his ring size for the ceremony at Wrigley Field next April.  If Adam Eaton were on the free agent market right now, GMs would be lining up to sign him to $100 million contracts.  Sportswriters would say things like “Adam Eaton is getting $100 million???!!!” but the GMs wouldn’t care because they know the value he brings to a ballclub.

The truth is the Nationals traded for Adam Eaton because they can’t sign a guy like him as a free agent.  The market is glutted by players like Mark Trumbo and Ian Desmond, who will give you power and production–if you’re willing to pay handsomely for it–but won’t do the day to day things Eaton will.  After finishing second place in the Zobrist and Heyward sweepstakes last offseason, Rizzo finally won.  But he won at a price.

And the price is shocking.  Giolito has been untouchable in trade talks the past three seasons.  Lopez, too, was in the first tier of prospects usually untouchable.  Dunning was a first round pick six months ago.  The trading of first round picks is normally a mistake left to short-sighted teams like the Diamondbacks or the Padres.

Giolito in particular seems like a missed opportunity.  Had Rizzo been willing to trade him a year ago, or even 4 months ago, what could have acquired?  Would Chapman or Miller successfully closed out Game 5 against the Dodgers last October?  Could Troy Tulowitzki have been the 2016 Nats shortstop?  It seems like Rizzo held onto a prized asset a little too long, and then sold him low after an unimpressive rookie season.

Twelve months ago, I expected Giolito to be the Nationals future and now he’s in the past, along with two other highly regarded prospects.  But it would be a mistake to characterize this trade as a mortgage of the future to enhance the present.

Eaton actually is the future, and that’s the only reason the Nationals made this trade.  Eaton is 28 and he’s signed for five more seasons, all at below-market team-friendly prices.  Eaton himself is a long term asset, a fact which makes it easier part with top prospects.

Other than Eaton, the biggest news from the Winter Meetings this week was the story the Nationals are prepared to let Bryce Harper walk away as a free agent after the 2018 season.  After seeing the Nats trade three prospects, one might assume the Nats are gearing up to maximize that two year window.

On the contrary, they just made the first trade to prepare for the post-Bryce Harper era.






Another autopsy of another Nationals NLDS loss

Here we are.  Again.  Another division championship ultimately means nothing as another team celebrates on the Nationals home field.

I was skeptical about Clayton Kershaw starting Game 4 when the Dodgers backs were against the wall.  I was wrong.  Kershaw delivered a strong enough performance to keep their season alive, and still managed to make an appearance in Game 5.  Again and again, manager Dave Roberts made the right moves at the right times to give his team an edge.  He put his dominant closer Kenley Jansen in the game in the 7th inning of Game 5 to stop the Nationals rally and keep the game 4-3.  He kept him there all the way until the 9th, making him throw a career high 51 pitches before turning to Kershaw for the save.  Roberts managed the last two games of this series like his pants were on fire.  His team was on life support and he acted accordingly.  Ultimately, he was right because his team will be playing in the NLCS while the Nats will not.

As for Dusty Baker, it’s only natural to second guess his managing in the last two games of this series.  Would starting Max Scherzer in Game 4 have made a difference?  Six shutout innings in LA likely would have ended the series in 4 games.  Should Dusty have deployed his closer, Mark Melancon, the same way Roberts did in Game 5?  Instead of wasting Melancon to pitch the 9th inning in a 8-3 Game 3, could he have better used him in a tie 5-5 game in Game 4, relieving Blake Treinen at just the right time?  When he Dodgers were rallying the 7th inning in Game 5, could Melancon have stopped the bleeding, where Solis and Kelley failed?  One manager managed game 4 and 5 like his season depended on it.  One manager stuck to the playbook.  Only one of those two will be managing in the NLCS.

The game itself had an uncomfortable feel that is becoming too familiar at Nats Park.  After a fast start from Scherzer and a quick run by the Nats in the second inning, the game largely ground to a stop.  Tension started to build.  The crowd started to wind itself tight as the Nationals failed to build on their one run lead, creating an atmosphere similar to the latter innings of Game 5 in 2012 when the Cardinals started chipping away at the Nats lead.  As we entered the late innings still 1-0, it is fair to wonder if the players and coaches were feeling the tension too, and it’s especially fair to wonder what in Bob Hendley’s mind when he sent Jayson Werth home a play any reasonable 3rd base coach would have been holding up the stop sign.  Under any other circumstances, Hendley probably tells Werth to stop.  Seriously, that play wasn’t even close.  He’d never admit it, but it’s likely he was feeling the same pressure the rest of us were, and he tried to squeeze out an extra run the Nationals so desperately needed.  Plain and simple, Hendley choked at the worst possible time.

And maybe Dusty was feeling the pressure, too, when he sent Max Scherzer back out for the 7th inning.  Of course, it’s easy to judge in hindsight, but Dusty was probably pushing his luck.  Max had already thrown 6 emotional innings and in an elimination game it’s always better to pull your guy one inning too early than one inning too late.  There were multiple lefties and a closer ready to go.  Maybe a combination of them keeps the 1 run lead intact for 3 more innings.  Then again, maybe not.

Of course, all of this Monday morning managing is easy when we have the benefit of hindsight.  The Nationals had multiple chances to win this game and they didn’t do it.  To their credit, however, they fought until the end.  Down 4-1, while I was wondering how many fans would throw in the towel and catch the last Metro train, the Nationals mounted rally after desperate rally.  Chris Heisey hit a 2-run home run to cut the lead to 4-3 and the Nats put 6 more runners on base over 3 innings.  They didn’t give up, which is both encouraging and dispiriting since they were only that much closer.

Moral victories, however, don’t win you trophies.  The Nats were losers on the big stage.  Again.

There was a moment in the middle of the chaos, though, where I paused to appreciate what I was witnessing.  I grew up in a town without professional baseball–an entire generation of Washingtonians did.  Now, on a perfect fall evening in a spectacular baseball game, in a full stadium in the 9th inning, the greatest pitcher on the planet made one of those surprise relief appearances we only see in October.  On his way to the mound, he jogged past the best young player of his generation, standing on second base and wearing the home uniform.  All of this was happening in a stadium in Washington D.C., where we’ve seen three playoff appearances in five years–and we’ll probably see more if this core stays together.  Even at the depth of this team’s sadness in 2009, this was all so hard to imagine.

As I was leaving the stadium I saw boy in a Nationals shirt and hat with tears streaming down his face.  Baseball can do that to you.  At his age, he’s probably more devastated than all of us.  He doesn’t have the perspective of time, which unfortunately makes us remember past playoff failures, but also gives us the understanding that there will be another year, another team.  The 2016 Nats came close, but not close enough.  The best part is we get to do it all again.  Pitching and catchers report to Spring Training next February.


Thoughts on NLDS Game 5

There are two possibilities tonight: total letdown or delirious celebration.  There is no middle ground.  Today will either be a crushing failure of the greatest day in Nationals history.  That’s the reality of a double elimination game.

It’s disappointing the Nationals couldn’t close out this series in LA.  Put the half-empty glass down, though, and realize this: the Nationals are lucky to be alive.  Their starting pitching, the team’s strength and the lifeblood of any contender, has fallen completely flat on its face this series.  Max Scherzer, the team’s ace, turned in a pedestrian start in Game 1, allowing 4 runs in 6 innings.  Against Clayton Kershaw, that’s not a winning performance, and he didn’t.  Tanner Roark in Game 2 allowed 10 baserunners before being pulled it the 5th inning; only a spectacular performance by the Nats bullpen salvaged a win.  Gio Gonzalez in Game 3 also didn’t survive the 5th inning; the bullpen saved him too.  In the first three games, the Nats relievers combined for 12.1 scoreless innings.  In Game 4, Joe Ross had to be pulled in the 3rd inning with the bases loaded and the Nationals down 4-2.

The Nationals have yet to achieve a quality start this postseason.  They are 0-4.  Under any other circumstances, their season would be over and the post-season autopsy would be underway.

Consider Game 5 a second chance.

And the Nationals’ second chance is a good one.  A fresh Max Scherzer, making his 12th career postseason start, is the man the Nats need on the mound.  This is his moment and he needs to seize it.  The Nats will likely live or die with Max tonight, and that’s not a bad thing.

There’s more good news.  This team is built to win, unlike past playoff teams.  In an age of statistics, it’s impossible to measure intangibles or what Tim Hudson tactlessly referred to as what you “have between your legs” in 2014.  But this series has convinced me this team is more mentally prepared than prior Nationals playoff contenders.  The Nats showed more on-field emotion in their must-win Game 2 than I’ve seen in all prior playoff appearances.  It’s a cosmetic observation, sure, but compare the on-field demeanor of the Nats in Game 2 to the frozen-in-the-headlights behavior in the 2014 NLDS.  If you need emotion to win in October, this team certainly has it.

It takes more than emotion to win in the playoffs, however.  You also need poise.  This team has that too.  Consider the comeback against the Dodgers in Game 4.  Bryce Harper’s at bat in the 7th inning typified this team’s “we’re never out of it” attitude.  With two runners on base, down by 3, and representing the tying run, Harper resisted the temptation to tie the game with one swing.  Instead, he stayed composed and took his free base when Kershaw couldn’t find the strike zone on his 9th pitch of the at bat.  Harper walked to first confident the guys behind him could come through.  Two batters, later, Daniel Murphy tied the game.

Anything can happen in a Game 5.  You are right to be terrified.  But this team has the players (Murphy, Werth, Scherzer) and the manager who have been there before.  They might lose tonight, but at least they’re going in better prepared for the moment than any Nats team I’ve seen.





Thoughts on Clayton Kershaw in Game 4

Dodgers had two choices: trust the brain or trust the gut.  They went with gut.

Last night, I incorrectly assumed the Dodgers would save Clayton Kershaw for a decisive and final Game 5 in DC.  It just seems like logical thing to do.  First, the Dodgers have to win the next two games to win the series, and Kershaw can only pitch one of those games.  All things being equal, I’d rather–if I were the Dodgers–have Kershaw pitch on the road in a tougher environment matched up against the Nats best pitcher, Max Scherzer.   Pitching him in Game 4 forces him to go on 3 days rest.  I wouldn’t ordinarily object to that, but Kershaw is still building back his stamina after missing most of the second half with an injury.  He only reached 100 pitches for the first time in Game 1.  Saving him for Game 5 might mean the Dodgers get 6 innings Thursday instead of 5 tonight–not insignificant consider the Dodgers bullpen is a little beat worn out and beat up.

Still.  This is the playoffs.  There’s an old axiom that you worry about tomorrow tomorrow.  It just feels wrong to keep your best pitcher on the sidelines, even if he’s only at 75 or 80 percent due to short rest.  The Dodgers season could end tonight; Dave Roberts doesn’t want that to happen with his best weapon still in the arsenal.  Maybe the thought of starting a 19 year old rookie, Julio Urias, in an elimination game sounds unconscionable to the Dodgers manager.

The most topical analogy  is Buck Showalter’s failure to use his best reliever, Zach Britton, in the Orioles extra innings Wild Card Game loss.  To me, this is fundamentally different.  I think Showalter made a grave mistake saving his best pitcher.  But in that situation, Britton was capable of pitching multiple innings.  With the game tied in the 11th, he could have pitched that inning, the Orioles could have scored in the top of the 12th, and Britton could have closed it out in the bottom of that inning.  Showalter could have avoided using his inferior reliever, Ubaldo Jimenez, altogether.  Here, the Dodgers have to start a pitcher other than Kershaw.  I think it’s best to do it at home, against Joe Ross rather than Scherzer.

Rich Hill will be available on Thursday night on 3 days rest as well.  Maybe the Dodgers plan on starting him then.  Maybe the equation is Kershaw (3 days rest) + Hill (3 days rest) > Urias (full rest) + Kershaw (full rest).  Maybe Roberts wants the option of Urias or Hill or some combination of the two.  Maybe he truly is worrying about tomorrow tomorrow and he has no plan.  Gut over brain.

I will say this.  As somebody pulling for the Nats, I feel better.  With Kershaw looming in Game 5, even against Scherzer, I was considering Game 4 a must win.  Now it feels like house money.  Win today, move on.  Lose, the team has a significant matchup advantage Thursday night.

A deciding Game 5 at home.  What could go wrong?

Nationals take a 2-1 NLDS lead over the Dodgers

It was slow, and it was unbearable to watch, right up until the moment Ryan Zimmerman put the game away with the 2-run double in the top of the 9th.

Look, if you actually enjoy watching these games, you probably don’t care enough.  Playoff baseball is brutal experience, and Game 3 was especially agonizing.  You survived it, and your reward is getting to do it all again Tuesday night.

Gio Gonzalez is normally hard to watch because of his wildness and demeanor on the mound, but this is especially true in the postseason where each game, inning, and run matters so much more.  I’ve been dreading Gio’s first playoff start all season.  He came into today with spotty playoff track record as the starting pitcher each of the Nats last two elimination games.  My concern was justified.

Gio–again–couldn’t get out of the 5th inning.  There was a brief window of hope for him after a tough first inning, but a 2-run home run in the bottom of the 5th, cutting the Nats lead to 4-3, forced Dusty to go to his bullpen earlier than any of us wanted.  The Nats relievers worked through the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th with the thinnest of margins until the Nats lineup blew the game wide open in the 9th.

Dusty gets credit for putting the right guys in the right spots.  He pulled Gio at the right time and let Sammy Solis and Shawn Kelley get the job done.  The Nats bullpen has been a huge strength this series.  They were heroes on Sunday too, bailing out Tanner Roark who also couldn’t make it out of the 5th inning.  The bullpen now has 12.1 innings of scoreless relief, but their luck will eventually run out.  It has to.  To keep their season alive, a starting pitcher will need to step up and deliver a good start.  We’re 0-3 so far.  It’s actually a little remarkable the Nats haven’t been swept considering that fact.  The acclaim goes to Dusty, the bullpen, and a Nats lineup that finally woke up.

There was a moment Sunday when it felt like the sand was running out of the hour glass.  A disappointing Game 1 led into an inauspicious beginning to Game 2.  The stadium seemed drained of life and we all started to imagine a repeat of 2014–g0ing to the West Coast down 2-0.  But the playoffs create unlikely heroes, and no one was more unlikely than Jose Lobaton, who didn’t even start Game 1, and wouldn’t be playing but for Wilson Ramos’ injury.  Lobaton’s 3-run home run might have saved the season.  Since that moment, the Nats have scored 13 runs in 14 innings–they only scored 9 through the entire 2014 postseason.

But now we turn to Game 4 and the pressure is on the Dodgers.  The Nats have their first ever 2-1 playoff series lead and a chance to clinch their first playoff series win.

Yet, even though the Dodgers face elimination, the pressure is on the Nats too.  Traveling back to DC for a 5th game would feel like a letdown.  Moreover, a Game 5 would be a dangerous rematch with Clayton Kershaw.  The Nats have the 2-1 edge right now, but if you expect any less anxiety, you’re gonna be disappointed.