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Game of inches could turn back in Nats' favor

MLB.com @mlbbowman

CHICAGO -- Through the first three games of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile, the Nationals have received exactly what was expected from their co-aces and have been burdened by the struggles of a more-than-capable offense that has essentially been subdued for all but one inning.

There was certainly a sense of frustration as the Nationals simply didn't get enough breaks after Max Scherzer gave them a valiant effort during Monday's 2-1 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Game 3 of the NLDS. But with another Stephen Strasburg start lurking on the horizon, this is far from being a beaten team.

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CHICAGO -- Through the first three games of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile, the Nationals have received exactly what was expected from their co-aces and have been burdened by the struggles of a more-than-capable offense that has essentially been subdued for all but one inning.

There was certainly a sense of frustration as the Nationals simply didn't get enough breaks after Max Scherzer gave them a valiant effort during Monday's 2-1 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Game 3 of the NLDS. But with another Stephen Strasburg start lurking on the horizon, this is far from being a beaten team.

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"We're right there," Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth said. "Playoff games are crazy. Sometimes, they are low-scoring and sometimes, they are high-scoring. It really hasn't gone our way yet. But we still have a big game tomorrow, and if we get this series back to D.C., I like our chances."

Tuesday's Game 4 was postponed because of inclement weather and will be played today, starting at 4 p.m. ET.

Following the lead of Strasburg, who didn't surrender a hit through the first 5 2/3 innings of Friday's Game 1 loss, Scherzer showed no signs of his sore right hamstring and didn't allow a hit until Ben Zobrist doubled with one out in the seventh. The two-time Cy Young Award winner then helplessly watched as Zobrist scored on Albert Almora Jr.'s game-tying single off Sammy Solis.

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Washington felt further frustration in the eighth inning when Brandon Kintzler issued a leadoff walk, which eventually set the stage for Anthony Rizzo to greet lefty specialist Oliver Perez with a decisive bloop single that left the bat at 70.7 mph, according to Statcast™, and found the grass in shallow center field -- an area most of the Nationals referred to as "no-man's land" after the loss.

Werth said after watching the replay he at least wondered if he or somebody else could have gotten to the Rizzo single that fell between him, shortstop Trea Turner and center fielder Michael A. Taylor, who had ended the seventh with a double play that began with him tracking down an Addison Russell fly ball with a 35-percent catch probability per Statcast™.

"In a five-game series, you win, you get all the momentum going back," Nationals catcher Matt Wieters said. "If we win tomorrow, we'll take all the momentum going back home. We lost home-field advantage in Game 1 at home, but we can get it right back if we win tomorrow."

Video: WSH@CHC Gm3: Oliver Perez on his Game 3 outing

It seemed like the Nationals had gained the momentum in Game 2, when they capped a decisive five-run eighth inning with a Ryan Zimmerman three-run homer that snuck just over the left-field wall. But it was the Cubs who drew the most influential breaks in Game 3.

This series has shown baseball can be a game of inches. But it's also a game that sometimes seems to support the law of averages, and this could certainly benefit the Nationals, whose "bad breaks" have been magnified by the fact that they have gone scoreless in 24 of the first 27 innings of this postseason.

"This game can be great and this game can be bad," Scherzer said. "You watch Zim's home run, it made it out by a foot. We caught that break. Today, they hit that ball that was a foot out of everybody's reach. That is playoff baseball. … Just one little thing can change a game."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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