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October 6, 2014 / Nat Anacostia

NLDS game 3: Fister keeps Nats’ hopes alive

The Nats won 4 to 1 in game 3 in San Francisco. Doug Fister pitched 7 shutout innings, giving up only 4 hits. The defense played well, especially Bryce Harper, who made a run-saving catch at the wall and saved another on a shoestring catch with a runner on second. The game was scoreless until the 7th inning, when Wilson Ramos bunted with runners on first and second and no outs, and Bumgarner threw the ball away in a misbegotten attempt to catch the lead runner, Ian Desmond, at third. In the top of the ninth, Harper hit a monster home run to right. In the bottom of the ninth, Drew Storen gave up hits to the first two batters before getting the final three outs.

Not quite so much strategy to talk about for this game. I would have played Ryan Zimmerman at first in place of Adam LaRoche (who wound up going 0 for 4 against the tough lefty), partly because LaRoche wasn’t likely to do much, and partly to get Zim some at bats and playing time. But Matt Williams went with the same old regular lineup. Williams doesn’t much like to change things up.

The interesting play was the Ramos bunt, especially since he made the bunt with two strikes after being unable to get it down earlier in the count. Although a two-strike bunt usually isn’t a good play, I think it also should be emphasized that part of the goal with the bunt is to mix things up and not make it too easy for the opponent to guess what you’re doing. In this case, the Giants were surprised (Sandoval and Belt had dropped back to their usual fielding position), and I think the element of surprise contributed to Posey’s overly aggressive and unwise decision to have Bumgarner throw to third. It worked out well for the Nats, even though it may not have been the best percentage play. (Though obviously Williams really wanted to keep Ramos from grounding into yet another double play.) For more on the bunt, see this article by Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs.

Can we trust Storen with a lead? The hit by Sandoval was a little flare off the handle of the bat that I think Danny Espinosa would have caught. (There’s another managerial decision that I would have made differently—in the ninth inning with a lead, I would have had Espinosa as a defensive substitute for Asdrubal Cabrera. If Nate Schierholtz hadn’t already been burned as a pinch hitter, I’d have used him as a defensive sub for Jayson Werth too.) But Pence really squared up on the second hit, a double to the gap in left field. Storen fooled Belt for strike three on a breaking ball—though that pitch hung and could have been dangerous—and got Crawford on a routine fly and Ishikawa on a ground ball. I think Storen needed to finish the game, if possible, for rebuilding trust. I think he’s still as good as anyone we have to go to in the 9th inning, though in any elimination game we also need to keep him on a short leash. If another runner had reached, especially on a well hit ball, I think you have to pull Storen and give the ball to one of the other relief pitchers.

For more on the game, see this article by David Schoenfield of Sweetspot, this article by Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post, and this article by Eno Sarris of FanGraphs.

Best wishes to Gio Gonzalez and the team in Game 4.

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