Hill toppers: Nats solve LA lefty, even NLDS

October 9th, 2016

WASHINGTON -- had managed only one hit against a left-handed pitcher this season, and the Nationals had concerns at the start of National League Division Series that a right-ankle injury would hamper the switch-hitting Lobaton's ability to hit right-handed, which he said he hadn't done in about six weeks.

But Lobaton, hitting right-handed, came through in the fourth inning with a three-run homer into the howling wind at Nationals Park to lead Washington to a 5-2 victory over the Dodgers in Game 2 on Sunday. The series is even as the team head to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 on Monday at 4 p.m. ET/1 PT on MLBN.

:: NLDS: Dodgers vs. Nationals coverage :: 

"I didn't think anybody could hit a home run out of left field today, the way that wind was blowing everything back," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "I mean, he had to hit it a ton."

Lobaton thought the same. In fact, an inning prior he had a conversation with home plate umpire Chris Guccione about how bad the wind was for hitters.

"When I hit the ball, I was like, I think I hit it really good, just I don't know if it's going to go out. And then when it went out, I was like, wow, that's pretty cool," Lobaton said with a laugh.

Lobaton's homer came off Dodgers left-hander , who had began the game strong with seven strikeouts through three scoreless innings. Hill's curveball kept the Nationals' offense off-balanced and the sold-out crowd of 43,826 quiet until they erupted with Lobaton's blast.

"This falls solely on me," said Hill, who was making his first postseason start since 2007. "I believe we're tied in the series because I didn't execute."

drove in a run in the seventh inning to extend Washington's lead; he finished the game 3-for-3 with two RBIs.

The Dodgers had their scoring opportunities, but left the bases loaded with one out three separate times and stranded 12 runners overall. hit a solo homer in the first inning for the second consecutive game and had a run-scoring single in the third, but the Dodgers could not take advantage against right-hander , who allowed two runs in an erratic 4 1/3 innings.

"We had Roark on the ropes and I think it was through five innings, we left 11 guys on base," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "It was just one big hit. We stressed him, and we had an opportunity to really put him away early."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Redemption for Lobaton: For a moment Lobaton seemed as though he might be the goat of Sunday's game during the early innings, spoiling a Nationals' scoring chance in the second inning by bouncing into a 1-2-3 double play and failed to make a tag after 's throw from right field beat to the plate in the third.

"I've been trying to put, separate a lot, what happened in the moment and keep going forward," Lobaton said. "But you know, it's something that it's going to happen. The only thing that you've got to do is just play and keep going. There's nothing we can do in the past. It's something that we can do for the next at-bat and concentrate."

All was forgiven after Lobaton's homer, the second of his postseason career, which earned him a curtain call from the Nationals' faithful.

Be like Clayton: After striking out the side in the first inning as did in Game 1, Hill escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second, as did Kershaw. Hill got Lobaton on a comebacker that he knocked down before flipping the ball home to start a 1-2-3 inning-ending double-play. The Dodgers also cut down a potential big fifth inning when fought the wind to catch 's fly ball, then threw out Harper at the plate trying to tag from third.

"First at-bat, bases loaded, [Hill] threw the right pitch in the right location, ground ball back to him, double-play," said catcher .

Nationals bullpen comes up big:  The Nationals used an aggressive pitching change and some strong defensive positioning to escape a jam in the fifth inning. After Baker removed Roark from the game, he called upon left-hander , who issued a leadoff walk to load the bases with one out. Rzepczynski bounced back by striking out . Then Kendrick lined out to left-fielder , who had been playing more shallow than usual to end the rally.

The Nationals bullpen played a large role in the victory overall as five relievers -- Rzepczynski, , , and -- combined to allow one hit in 4 2/3 scoreless innings.

"Both sides were aggressively going to their bullpen," Baker said. "This kind of shows you the importance of the bullpen in these playoffs; you know, bullpen and defense."

LOB: The Dodgers left 12 runners on base, went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-5 with the bases loaded -- all but one stranded runner through the fifth inning.

"You never know, tomorrow we might score a bunch of runs later in the game," said . "When we get guys out there, we've got to hit it where they're not and get better at-bats."

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS

was hit by a pitch in his first two at-bats by Hill, tying a postseason single-game record done 18 previous, but most recently by Rougned Odor (Oct.8, 2015 vs. Blue Jays).

WHAT'S NEXT

Dodgers:, the unexpected workhorse of the rotation, gets his first postseason start in the 1:08 p.m. PT game at Dodger Stadium. This will be the first time he's faced Washington. He led league rookies this year in wins (16), starts (31), innings pitched (175 2/3, opponents batting average (.229) and WHIP (1.14). He was 4-3 against NL East teams this year.

Nationals: will try to take advantage of the Dodgers weakness against left-handed pitching when he makes the start in Game 3 on Monday. Gonzalez is trying to put behind a forgettable 2016 season that he finished with a 4.57 ERA, the highest in a full season of his career.