Fister, Nationals make the most of Bumgarner throwing error, push NLDS to Game 4 with 4-1 win
The Nationals finished the regular season with the best record in the NL, but found themselves trying to keep their season alive on Monday after dropping the first two games of the NLDS to the Giants.
San Francisco, winners of two of the past four World Series, had won 10 consecutive postseason games heading into Monday's Game 3. Their most reliable starter, Madison Bumgarner, got the start at home with a chance to pitch them into the NLCS. The Nationals were trying to avoid another early October exit, much like their loss in the Division Series back in 2012, and sent offseason acquisition Doug Fister to the mound to try to force a Game 4.
Fister entered the game with a 2.08 ERA in 15 October games (all with the Tigers), while Bumgarner blanked the Pirates for a complete-game shutout during the NL Wild Card game last week.
If hitting wasn't already going to be difficult enough against these pitchers, the mid-afternoon shadows at AT&T Park did not do any favors to the hitters.
Nor did this random blimp flyover.
Bumgarner flummoxed the Nationals through the first six innings, but they finally broke through in the seventh. With runners on first and second and no one out, Wilson Ramos laid down a sacrifice bunt. In a rush to get the lead runner at third base, Bumgarner misfired on the throw and the ball rolled far down the left-field line, eventually reaching the Giants bullpen.
Two runs would score on the play, and the next batter, Asdrubal Cabrera, singled home Ramos from second base to give the Nationals a 3-0 advantage.
When Bryce Harper gets a hit in the playoffs, he makes it count. His solo home run in the ninth inning added an exclamation point to extend the Nationals' lead to 4-0.
Bryce Harper is just 6-for-37 (.162) in the postseason, but five of the six hits have gone for extra bases (one 2B, one 3B, three HRs).— Paul Casella (@paul_casella) October 6, 2014
Nationals closer Drew Storen, who had already blown a save in Game 2, came into the game and made it interesting in the ninth. Sandoval led the inning off with a single, and Hunter Pence doubled to keep the rally alive.
Drew Storen and the playoffs, man. Drew Storen and the playoffs.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) October 6, 2014
For a moment it looked as if the Giants were about to mount a comeback. Former Journey frontman Steve Perry was stoked:
But Storen refocused following Pence's double, retiring Brandon Belt on strikes and allowing just a Brandon Crawford sacrifice to make the score 4-1. With the Giants down to their last out, Travis Ishikawa knocked a ground ball to short, ending the game and extending the Nationals' season at least another day.
The Game Changer
Fister turned in another solid outing, allowing just four hits while tossing seven shutout innings. He improved his postseason record to 4-1, and his teams are now 3-0 in elimination games that he has started.
Now, suddenly, the Giants are the team with offensive woes: They have scored just six runs in 36 innings during this series.
Other Key Players, Plays
Sandoval singled in the second inning to extend his postseason hitting streak to 14 games -- one shy of the NL record (Marquis Grissom with 15).
The panda contingent of the crowd approved.
Moments after Bumgarner's error in the seventh, Kung Fu Panda flashed some leather to record the inning's first out.
Harper complemented his contributions at the plate with a pair of his own defensive highlights. He can't seem to stop crashing into walls.
And then added this impressive shoestring grab in the bottom of the seventh inning.
With their backs against the wall, the Nationals staved off elimination for at least another day. The two teams will meet again on Tuesday night for Game 4 in San Francisco.
Gio Gonzalez will try to pitch this series back to D.C. for Washington, while the Giants will place their hopes of advancing in Ryan Vogelsong's hands.