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Nats Dent Jack Early; Strasburg Masterful in 8-1 Game 3 Loss

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Offense shows (relative) life with 7 hits; inanimacy with 0 walks and 16 Ks

MLB: NLCS-St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals
Marcell laid an egg here, but hey, he had 2 hits
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I read an interesting article about tonight’s starter for the Cards...turned out to be fiction.

It wasn’t Flaherty’s night...but he did earn his Stripes this season.

His Titanic second-half left us gloriously dizzy...but the Nats sunk him tonight.

The drowsy lineup got a jolt of Cafecito...but it must’ve been decaf.


Keys to the Game

Repeat the Jack Attack - Jack pitched very well in his two NLDS first-ever post-season starts against the Braves, giving up a total of 12 hits and 4 ERs with 16 Ks and just 2 BBs over those 13 IP. So the bright lights obviously did not bother him. What did annoy him greatly were the 2 homers he gave up, one in Game 2 that pushed a 1-0 deficit to 2 runs (that the Cards lost 3-0) and one in the clinching laugher of Game 5 that was a meaningless solo shot (with the Cards romping 13-1).

Jack needed to continue his intense, hard-on-himself mentality into Game 3 vs. the Nats in the NLCS, to reverse the tide, with your Cards down 2-0. Not giving up any homers certainly would help that cause. The Nats certainly have not had much experience against him, with a total of 21 ABs coming in to tonight, with 5 hits and 4 strikeouts.

Get More (Less?) Offensive - The bigger concern, of course, was the offense, hitting recently as though they were facing Jack. After going AWOL in the first NLCS match-ups, getting blanked by journeyman shaman Anibal Sanchez and pending HOFer Max Scherzer to the tune of 1 and 3 hits respectively, there certainly was more room for improvement than further deterioration.
The Nats sent Stephen Strasburg to the bump. The Cards battled him less than a month ago, when he gave up just 2 ER with 6 strikeouts, but walked 4 and was pulled after just 5 innings because he’d thrown 99 pitches to that point. The Cards then scored 2 more off their bullpen for a 4-2 That was a good formula, yo.

Lineup Buzz - Jose Martinez, owner of 2 of the Cards’ 4 hits over NLCS Games 1 and 2, was poured into the lineup in right field and 5th in the lineup to wake up the slumbering bats. That was as far as the shakeup went, as Fowler remained in center, Tommy Edman at third, and Matt Carpenter on the bench.

Shildt traded a hope for offensive improvement for definite offensive reduction. If you’re curious, Jack’s FB and GB rates this season were nearly identical: 39.5 FB%; 38.3 GB%.

Martinez was 2-4 and scored the Cards’ lone run. So I guess that worked, anyway.


THE BIRD’S-EYE VIEW

In the first-ever NLCS game in our National’s Capital, the stout starters for each time started off well, both getting occasional help from the ump’s generous strike zone. But that wasn’t a factor throughout the game.

Things were going well for Jack through 2.2 innings, until the Nats did what they do, scoring with 2 outs in the turd of the third inning. A bloop single, sac bunt, and another single plated the Nats’ first 2-out run. A sliding mis-play on a fly ball by Ozuna turned the third out into a 2-base error double. Instead of being out of the inning down just 1-0, the Nats parlayed a concoction of a little more hitting luck and bad pitcher execution by Jack with good hitting mixed in.

When the dust settled, it suddenly was 4-0 Nats, taking Jack 33 pitches to get through the inning. He lasted just one more inning and then was done, exiting with the score where it was.

The Nats never looked back, plating 2 more in the 5th and single tallies in the 6th and 7th. The key, however, was the third-straight lock-down pitching performance by a Nationals’ starter in Strasburg. Despite the ability to throw 95+ heat, it was his off-speed pitches that fooled Cardinals hitters all night long.

At least the Cards’ offense did show some life, producing 7 hits, a veritable barrage compared to the previous two games in this series. They managed to bunch three of those in the form of singles in the 7th to score a single run.

But the remainder of the hits were scattered throughout the other frames. Plus, the Cards did not earn a single walk, keeping Strasburg’s pitch count low, allowing him to remain deep into the game. The additional killer to the offense was the astronomical number of strikeouts, totaling 16 by night’s end.

While the team’s offensive totals indicated winning numbers for the Nats, they don’t immediately point to a would-be lop-sided score.

The Nats out-hit the Cards only 11-7. The Nats had 11 Ks to the Cards’ 16. The Nats had 3 walks; again, to the Cards’ 0. But the Nats wielded their 2-out voodoo, sequencing their hits at the right times.


THE FLIGHT PATH

Top of 1st

The Cards went down 1-2-3 and looked poorly doing so, with 2 strikeouts and a tap-back to the mound. The ump definitely had a generous zone down as well as away.

Dexter Fowler K’d as quickly as you possibly can, watching two fastballs, then swinging over a sharp curve. Kolten then swung at a very not-strike well below the zone on the first offering, a fastball at 96, tapping it gently right back to Strasburg for a quick out 2.

Paul Goldschmidt at least got the count full, but then couldn’t pull the trigger on a tight curve (or slider) that kissed the low-and-away corner for a called strike three.

Bottom of 1st

Jack got the first two outs easily in 5 pitches, but it took 12 to get the last one, including a walk.

Flaherty began by pumping a fastball at the bottom of the zone like Strasburg. Trea Turner bounced it right up the middle past Jack, but Kolten ranged to his right, backhanded it, and fired across his body to first, where Pauly G deftly scooped it out of the dirt for
Gold Glove-level performances on both ends for out 1.

Adam Eaton then sent a soft liner toward Marcell Ozuna, who, playing shallow, trotted in to grab it easily. Give a big assist on that one to Willie McGee.

Jack got ahead of the dangerous Anthony Rendon, but missed with four careful sliders in a row, down and away that Rendon did not bite on, walking him.

Juan Soto followed Rendon’s lead, laying off 3-straight pitches, making it 7 of Jack’s pitches in a row for balls. Flaherty came back to get the count full, sizzling a perfect 94 mph fastball in the low-away corner to finish the inning. Soto and Jack exchanged looks as the players went back to their dugouts.

Top of 2nd

Marcell Ozuna did a great thing by hitting a lead-off double. He then erased that good thing by exhibiting bone-headed base running to remove himself as a RISP.

A HIT!!! A HIT!!! A HIT!!! A HIT!!!

Marcell took advantage of a 2-2 hanging curve middle-middle, lining it down the left-field line for a lead-off double.

New starter Jose Martinez stepped in, looking to continue his good-hitting mojo. He got behind 1-2, deciding to not offer at pitcher’s-pitch fastballs at the bottom of the zone. He then went into hack mode, using his wingspan to offer at and foul off two balls well out the zone before tapping back to Strasburg.

For some horrible reason, Ozuna did not immediately go back to second, freezing like a bear in the headlights, and was easily tagged out by the pitcher, as Martinez made it to first.

Strasburg then got Yadier Molina to offer at two high strikes, and he got under both, popping the first foul behind the plate, then the second one in the same area that stayed out of the stands for the second out. Tommy Edman did not fare much batter, getting jammed and popping out to Rendon in fair territory.

Bottom of 2nd

In a bit of irony, Jack told the veteran portion of the Nats’ lineup to get off his lawn, mowing through two 36-year-olds interrupted by one 35-year old.

Jack started the 2nd doing what he do, striking out Howie Kendrick looking at a 90 mph 2-seamer diving down and in, plucked up into the zone by Yadi. Fellow veteran Ryan Zimmerman bounced a grounder to Tommy, who flung it across the diamond for out 2. Old catcher Kurt Suzuki then became Jack’s third strikeout victim, as he stared at a 2-2 fastball right down central, obviously looking for a breaking pitch.

Top of 3rd

Pauly D showed a welcome good at-bat but was robbed of a single. Jack and Dex both K’d.

Leading off, Paul DeJong had a much better at-bat than he’s had in a good while, getting the count full then smoking a one-hop smash to third that Rendon somehow snagged, gloving it actually slightly behind him, popping up, and throwing out Pauly D at first, stealing a single away.

Jack then made Strasburg work a bit, getting a 2-2 count. Then Stephen unfairly broke off a curve, striking out his counterpart looking.

Dex then became Strasburg’s 4th strikeout victim, getting carved up on one curve and three changeups, none of which he even fouled off, swinging and missing on the fourth pitch.

Bottom of 3rd

Some bad luck and bad defense conspired to force Jack to face more hitters than he should have. Poor pitching execution allowed the Nats to play their calling card, scoring runs with two outs. Jack threw 33 pitches to spike his count to 64.

Eighth-Place hitter Victor Robles, absent lately with a bad hammie, got his first start in the NLCS. Jack jammed him, and Robles was fortunate to get a 76 mph EV seeing-eye single just out of the reach of a Pauly D, diving toward second.

Now with a chance to sac-bunt the runner to second, Strasburg bunted it right down the first-base line. Goldy picked it up and tagged the pitcher out, with Robles making it to second easily.

Before the next pitch, Jack and Wong almost teamed up for pick-off at second, but Robles got his hand back in safely. Now back to the top of the lineup, Turner foul-tipped a Jackrabbit inside fastball into Yadi’s mitt for out 2.

Jack then caught too much of the plate with a first-pitch fastball middle and only slightly away, and Eaton jumped it, pulling a sharp bouncer just beyond Kolten’s right, continuing into center for a single, scoring Robles easily to make it 1-0.

The Nats got their second instance of good luck, as Jack totally fooled Rendon with a change-up. He threw his bat at it, sending a dying quail to left that Marcell came in on, slid, and muffed it, as the ball popped in and out of his glove, scoring a hustling Eaton from first. Ozuna unwisely tried to throw home, allowing Rendon to get to second for what was scored a double. It seemed Marcell’s head bobbed when his butt made contact with the turf on his slide, making his eyes bounce at the last second. That made it 2-0 Nats.

On a 3-2 pitch to Soto, Jack couldn’t get him to bite on a slider in the dirt. Again, the young Soto started out to Jack multiple times both during the at-bat, again as he removed his gear at the plate, and lastly as he trotted to first. Whatever, bud.

During the next at-bat against Kendrick, Jack threw a wild pitch that Yadi attempted to back-hand but not slide and block, moving the runners up to second and third, with two outs. Jack then left a fastball out over the plate that Kendrick shot into the right-center gap, plating two more, making it 4-0 Nats.

Finally, Jack got the third out of the unnecessarily lengthy inning, getting lucky himself, as Zimmerman hit a sharp grounder at 103 mph EV up the middle. But Wong was positioned right in that spot, throwing him out to end the inning.

Top of 4th

The Cards actually “bunched” two singles in the same inning but did not create anything from it.

Kolton got good wood on one, sending a liner to deep center at 96 mph EV, but Robles was well-positioned, catching it easily. Paul Goldschmidt then struck out for the second time in the evening, waiving over a change-up for out 2.

Marcell then scorched a center-cut fastball at 114 mph EV on a line to center for a single, grabbing his second hit, the second hit for the team.

Cafecito then grabbed some good fortune for the Cards, pulling his hands in just enough to help him dump a fliner over short for a single.

With what qualified to this point in their NLCS as a massive rally, the Cards had first and second, two out. Likely using Yadi’s first-swing tendencies against him, Strasburg broke off a curve on pitch one, which of course, Yadi offered at. He did drive it pretty well at 94 mph EV, but it traveled to one of the deeper parts of the park in right center, and Robles trotted back to his left, and caught it easily.

Bottom of 4th

Working to shake off the horrible previous inning, Jack worked around a 2-out RISP situation to keep the Nats from tacking on.

Suzuki singled leading off on an actually good pitch, a fastball below the zone, banging it into left for a single. After striking out Robles on a foul-tip, Strasburg bunted Suzuki to second on his second sac-bunt of the night, making it a RISP and the dreaded 2-out situation. Jack snuffed that out this time, striking out Turner on a 2-seamer that dove sharply down and in that Trea swung over the top of.

Top of 5th

With Jack up third in the inning, the action in the Cards’ bullpen signaled Jack’s night was done. The Cards actually got a hit for the second inning in a row, but Strasburg brushed that away like a gNat.

Edman waived over an 0-2 change-up that dove away from Tommy’s bat low and away for out 1. DeJong then got a gift-single, as he topped one to third. Rendon dove to his left, and the ball took a late hop, jumping just over his glove, glancing off the thumb to short (where Turner no longer was) for an infield single.

Matt Carpenter entered to hit for Jack and got down 0-2, worked the count full, then got fooled looking at a curve he didn’t expect for out 2.

Dex then tried swinging at the first pitch, which was a change-up instead of the fastball he likely expected. His swing therefore was off, and he got under it, flying out to medium right.

Bottom of 5th

The Nats parlayed anther fortunate hit into 2-out run-scoring magic, as they added 2 more runs on three hits that included back-to-back doubles.

Lefty Tyler Webb relieved Jack, getting Eaton to ground out to short to start the 5th. Rendon then repeated his “throw the bat at the ball” technique, somehow plunking a dying quail to right-center for a single.

Webb then induced lefty hitter Soto to fly out toward the line in medium-left for out 2. Shildt then played MatchGame and went to righty Brebbia to face Kendrick. The Bearded One grooved his first pitch down the middle, and Howie cracked it on 2 hops to left-center, scoring Rendon from first, making it 5-0 Nats.

Brebbia got Zimmerman down 0-2 then hung a slider just enough, and it got creamed to left-center again or another double, scoring another run, in another 2-out instance, making it now 6-0.

Finally, Brebbia executed—sort of—throwing a likely unintentional backup slider up and in that Suzuki mis-timed and popped up to Wong for the final out.

Top of 6th

Strasburg repeatedly went to the change-up as his out pitch and he sat the Cards down in order.

On an 0-2 count, Strasburg sat down Kolten on a change-up outside of the zone, which Wong was out-in-front on, tapping back to the pitcher.

Goldy then donned the Golden Sombrero, striking out for the third time tonight in his three at-bats, waiving over a diving change-up.

The brightest spot of the lineup and dimmest bulb on the base paths and outfield tonight, Ozuna became Strasburg’s 9th strikeout victim, missing—you guessed it—a change-up.

Bottom of 6th

Brebbia remained in to continue the 6th. The first batter he faced was one batter too long.

Robles got a 93 mph fastball up and out over the plate, and he didn’t miss it, homering to right-center to make it 7-0. With no one on to sac-bunt over, Strasburg instead struck out.

High-arm-speed Genesis Cabrera came in to relieve Brebbia. He got Turner to tap one back to him toward his right. He fielded it cleanly, and spun, throwing a bit high, but the tall Pauly G stretched to finish the out.

Eaton next then hacked at the first pitch, flying out easily to center for the third out.

Top of 7th

The Cards scored!

Jose Martinez battled Strasburg on 10 pitches, finally besting him on an up-and-in curve, singling into second for his second hit. Yadi then followed that up with a line-drive single of his own, jumping a 2-seamer that stayed up in the middle of the zone, making it first and second, nobody out.

Edman then had a rare RISP chance, but he struck out for the second time of the night on the same pitch, that dastardly changeup.

Paul DeJong came through, however, knocking a single of his own to left. Some Keystone Koppery by the Nats produced a run. Martinez initially was stopped at third, despite left fielder Soto slipping and falling before throwing. When he did finally return the ball to the infield, it went past the cut-off, and rolled toward first. Catcher Suzuki abandoned home to fetch it, and that gave Jose the opening to baby-giraffe-it home, giving the Cards their 2nd run in 24.1 NLCS innings. That made it 7-1 Nats.

Pinch-hitter Matt Wieters came in to see what he could do with first and second one out. Of course, he struck out, of course, on a change-up for the second out.

Leadoff hitter Fowler then stepped in and became Strasburg’s last hitter of the night and latest strikeout victim on a change-up.

Bottom of 7th

Hey look! It’s Daniel Ponce de Leon! He struck out the side! (But also gave up a run off a double and single.)

Illustrating the futility felt by Shildt in this game, he brought in Ponce, who looked good at first, getting two punch-outs against Rendon and Soto. But he couldn’t finish the deal, as Kendrick banged his third double of the night.

Of course, Zimmerman next sent a hanging breaking pitch into left for yet another 2-out, run-scoring single to make it 8-1.

Ponce then closed out the inning by striking out Suzuki on a called high curve that just nicked the upper zone.

Top of 8th

Righty reliever 42-year-old Fernando Rodney came in for Strasburg. Brian Dozier replaced Kendrick at second. The Cards’ 2-4 hitters put up no fight.

Wong popped out to shallow center for the first out on the second pitch. Goldy traded in his Golden Sombrero for the Platinum model, striking out for the forth time, watching a fastball go by.

Ozuna then waived over a change-up, K-ing for the third out.

Bottom of 8th

Ponce remained in the game, fulfilling a 2-inning Garbage-Time role.

Victor Robles popped out to Wong for the first out. DeJong then made a fantastic diving stop to his left near second base and fired just in the nick of time to nail Dozier for the second out.

Ponce gave up a 2-out walk to Turner, leaving the door open for the Nats to do their 2-out run-scoring thing. But Ponce squashed that, striking out Eaton on an elevated fastball.

Top of 9th

The Cards went down in order.

Flame-throwing righty Tanner Rainey came in to close the game out for the Nats. As usual, Martinez battled in a good at-bat but succumbed on the 7th pitch, striking out swinging on a 101 mph fastball down central.

Likewise, next batter Molina struck out, only this was on a slider in the dirt.

Tommy at least made contact, lifting a lazy fly to left for the final out.

Nats won, 8-1.

Bottom of 9th

NOT NECESSARY


THE BOTTOM LINE

  • Flaherty and Strasburg had identical 29.9% K rates this season.
  • Dex reportedly told Shildt after an at-bat in the 6th inning of Game 2 that he put his hands in a new spot and felt better. Dex went 0-4 with 3 Ks tonight, but his hands looked great.
  • Jack hadn’t allowed 4 runs in an inning since June 25th.
  • 7 of the 8 Nats’ runs were on 2 outs.
  • The Nats’ 8th-place hitter Robles produced 2 hits, including a homer.
  • All of Stasburg’s 12 strikeouts were on off-speed pitches. Four on curves; 8 on change-ups.
  • Strasburg’s 12 K’s tied his post-season high.
  • Strasburg joined Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Gerrit Cole, and Bob Gibson as the only pitchers with multiple 12+ strikeout games in the post season.
  • Strasburg distributed 3 pitches pretty dang evenly: 29% two-seamers; 29% change-ups, 24% curves; then mixed in 18% four-seamers
  • Cards’ hitters struck out 16 times, the most of any Cardinal playoff team.
  • The Cards’ hitters walked exactly none times.
  • Strasburg threw a season-high 117 pitches.
  • Cards’ left-handed hitters in this series have gone 0-thirty-something.
  • Kendrick’s third double in the 7th tied an NLDS record.
  • Down now 3-0, the Cards try to prevent the sweep tomorrow at 7:05 CT, with Dakota Hudson going up against dastardly lefty Patrick Corbin.
  • Perhaps the Cards can turn on the sprinklers overnight to manufacture a rain-out.