Dodgers, Nationals seek to stay in October play
Both clubs facing must wins on road in NLDS to force decisive Game 5s at home
While their American League counterparts took advantage of a day to enjoy the spoils of their stunning sweeps, the four teams engaged in National League Division Series action kept at it and still have at least one more day of work to be done, if not more.
In a Game 3 double shift on Monday, the Nationals rode the Majors' best pitching staff to a road win that gets them on the board in their best-of-five NLDS against the Giants, and the Cardinals held on for dear life to take the advantage in their NLDS with the Dodgers. Come Tuesday, another double dip, and the possibility of a Game 4 clincher in each series.
With both series at 2-1, the Nationals have shown and the Dodgers should take notice that it only takes one win to get back on track, to give yourself a chance to make October last longer. The two home teams might have some champagne waiting on ice Tuesday night, but the road teams have one more chance to leave the bubbly corked and take the series back home for a Game 5.
"Everybody was well aware of where we were at," Nationals manager Matt Williams said after his club earned a 4-1 win over the Giants behind seven stellar innings from starter Doug Fister and a powerful display of Bryce Harper's multiple talents. "You know, it doesn't change for [Tuesday]. Same situation."
Said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly after his team's 3-1 loss at St. Louis in Game 3: "We can't sit around and do any complaining. We've got to be ready to go."
So with the Royals and Orioles both basking in the first days of a break before challenging each other in the AL Championship Series, it'll be time for Game 4 intrigue in two NL cities on Tuesday.
Teams taking a 2-1 lead in a Division Series are 37-10 overall, with six of the 10 that overcame the deficit taking Game 4 at home and only four snatching the series momentum on the road, as the Nats and Dodgers would have to do. The 2013 Tigers and Cardinals both overcame 2-1 deficits, Detroit winning Game 4 at home before finishing off Oakland on the road, and St. Louis beating the Pirates at PNC Park to set up a Game 5 clincher at Busch Stadium. The 2012 Giants topped them all, not only winning Game 4 on the road but also Game 5 at Cincinnati.
Even before Game 3 began in St. Louis, the Dodgers made serious series news when Mattingly announced that his Game 4 starter will be lefty ace Clayton Kershaw, whose all-world regular season seemed like a distant memory in Game 1. It will be Kershaw meeting Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller in a 5 p.m. ET start on FOX Sports 1.
Kershaw, who had 110 pitches in allowing eight earned runs while being knocked out in the seventh inning Friday, will be pitching on three days' rest. The Dodgers' future in this postseason will be hanging in the balance, with Zack Greinke awaiting on regular rest for a potential Game 5 if Kershaw can get it done in Game 4.
"Obviously, after as bad as I pitched in Game 1, it wasn't going to be me go in there and say, I want the ball," Kershaw said of his short-rest assignment. "I was definitely ready for it and definitely wanted to do it, just waiting for the opportunity."
That opportunity became a chance to keep the Dodgers' season and this series alive, as opposed to a chance to pitch a clincher. Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong broke out the power to support John Lackey and Co. to put the Cardinals in the driver's seat. It was Wong's two-run homer in the seventh that became the winning blow, but Carpenter became the sixth player ever to hit a homer in the first three games of a single postseason.
In San Francisco on Monday, another couple of impressive streaks came to an end, essentially on the same play. Starter Madison Bumgarner tried to nail a lead runner at third on a bunt in the seventh inning, but his errant throw led to two runs, snapping his postseason scoreless innings streak at 22, the second longest in Giants history. With the way Fister was pitching, that was enough breathing room to snap the Giants' 10-game postseason win streak, dating to 2012. The Giants lost despite Pablo Sandoval extending his postseason hitting to 14 games, one off the NL record set by the Braves' Marquis Grissom in 1995-96.
Now, the Giants will have to try their hand against Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez, who will be matched with right-hander Ryan Vogelsong in a 9 p.m. ET start on FOX Sports 1.
Meanwhile, the wait began for the Orioles and Royals, who have some time to recuperate from their celebrations before they start up the AL Championship Series with Game 1 on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS. The Royals were able to head to their own homes -- eventually, and possibly not until early morning -- after clinching against the Angels at Kauffman Stadium, but the Orioles still had to take a plane ride on Monday after sweeping the Tigers the night before.
And when the O's arrived at Camden Yards on Monday afternoon, the reception was loud in color and volume, Baltimore clearly still very much in celebration mode. Manager Buck Showalter soaked it all in, knowing the ultimate pleasure of winning in the postseason was on display -- a team, a city and a whole lot of joy.
"We share in their happiness," Showalter said.