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.

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