WASHINGTON -- Now that the Nationals have clinched the National League East, they are trying to find the proper balance between maintaining health and trying to maintain home field advantage for their National League Division Series matchup with the Dodgers.
But with two key players already missing from the middle of their order and one of their top starting pitchers sidelined, the Nationals may have lost another in Monday's 14-4 loss to the D-backs. Wilson Ramos, their All-Star catcher having the best season of his career, left the game in the sixth inning with a right knee injury. He had to be carried off the field by team trainers, unable to put any weight on the leg. The Nationals did not offer any more clarity on his injury other than the fact that he will undergo an MRI on Tuesday.
"I feel badly because you know how we all feel about Wilson," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "But it's part of the game. You hate [for] it to happen this late, right before the playoffs, but our next step is try to figure out a way to play without Wilson. I've been mixing and matching this year and most of my life. Therefore it's another obstacle and I just got to try to go back to the drawing board and figure out something."
The game featured a brief 20-minute rain delay in between two separate innings where the D-backs scored five runs. Outfielder Yasmany Tomás led the way by driving in five runs on a three-run homer and a two-run double, as Arizona drove Washington right-hander Tanner Roark out of the game after four innings.
Jean Segura homered twice and went back-to-back with Jake Lamb in the eighth off right-hander Lucas Giolito as a part of Arizona's five-homer night. Mitch Haniger also homered for the D-backs.
"It's always nice to put up runs like that," Lamb said. "Every inning for the most part we had good ABs so it was nice."
Washington's lead over Los Angeles for home-field advantage in the NLDS dropped to one game.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Only one, but it was big: D-backs reliever Randall Delgado only faced one batter, but when he came on in relief of Archie Bradley with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth, the game was in the balance. The D-backs were clinging to a 5-4 lead and Delgado's inning-ending strikeout of Anthony Rendon helped keep the game from spinning out of control.
"It was huge," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "Huge."
Ramos leaves the game: Ramos often takes a beating behind the plate, as most catchers do, but he prides himself on staying in the game after every foul ball, despite every knick, bruise or pain he feels. So when he exited the game with an apparent knee injury in the sixth inning, it was cause for Nationals fans to wait with bated breath. Ramos landed awkwardly after he leaped to grab a relay throw from Ryan Zimmerman on a two-run double by Tomas.
Ramos stayed on the ground for a few moments and was unable to put any weight on his leg as he was helped off the field by team training staff. For a team already nursing Bryce Harper (thumb), Daniel Murphy (buttocks) and Stephen Strasburg (flexor strain) back to full strength, the Nationals can ill afford to lose another key player.
"There's always a level of concern when you lose a guy of that caliber," Baker said. "But that's why we have the depth that we have. Nobody's going to feel sorry for you. We just got to next man up. We got some guys that have to pick it up. But there's nothing you can do about it. You got to play. You got to play and nobody feels sorry for you, so we're not going to feel sorry for ourselves." More >
The long game: The D-backs hit five home runs, the most they've hit in a game since smacking six against the Phillies on June 17. Segura collected his fifth career multi-homer game -- fourth this season. His three hits on the night left him just four shy of the 200 mark.
"It's always nice when you hit two home runs," Segura said. "It's a good feeling, but I worry about wins. So when we won the game today that was very good." More >
Short start for Tanner: The Nationals have been able to count on Roark to routinely last deep into his starts, during this season where he has established himself as one of the premier starters in baseball. Even though he breezed through the first three innings without allowing a baserunner, Roark ran into trouble during a five-run fourth. His four-inning start was his shortest since June 5, and he had not allowed at least five runs since July 22.
"I left pitches right over the middle, getting behind guys and then having to throw fastballs," Roark said. "I had to throw strikes, didn't want to walk anybody. It happens."
D-backs:Matt Koch will make his first Major League start Tuesday in the second game of the series at Nationals Park at 4:05 p.m. MST. Koch is getting the start over Zack Greinke, who has been bothered by a stiff shoulder. Koch has made five relief appearances since being called up from Triple-A Reno in early September.
Nationals:Max Scherzer (18-7, 2.82 ERA) gears up for one of his likely final two starts of the season on Tuesday against the D-backs at 7:05 p.m. ET. Scherzer, who was selected in the first round by the D-backs in 2006, is 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA against his former team, including eight innings of three-run ball with 11 strikeouts earlier this year.
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