MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Nats halt LA rally in 5th with key escape

Nats halt LA rally in 5th with key escape

WASHINGTON -- Manager Dusty Baker wasn't going to take any chances during the Nationals' 5-2 victory over the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Sunday.

The Nationals were ahead, 4-2, in the fifth inning. But once right-hander Tanner Roark got in trouble by putting two runners on base with one out, Baker decided to turn to a bullpen that went on to allow only one hit over 4 2/3 shutout innings. His best pitching change of the day turned out to be the first one he made, when he brought in Marc Rzepczynski to stop the budding rally.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 7 LAD 4, WAS 3 video
Gm 2 Oct. 9 WSH 5, LAD 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 WAS 8, LAD 3 video
Gm 4 Oct. 11 LAD 6, WAS 5 video
Gm 5 Oct. 13 LAD 4, WSH 3 video

After walking Yasiel Puig to load the bases, Rzepczynski then struck out Yasmani Grandal. Howie Kendrick hit a liner to left fielder Jayson Werth, who made a diving catch to end the threat.

Kendrick's liner came off his bat at 107.5 mph with a launch angle of 14 degrees, as measured by Statcast™, and batted balls with those traits were a hit 71.6 percent of the time this season. But Werth was playing shallow on the play, 289 feet from home compared to his season average of 296 during the regular season, which helped him secure the grab.

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"I'm running full speed," Werth said. "It's hooking, and it's turning over and it starts to knuckle in the end. It was great to catch the ball. That's why after I caught it, I was pumped."

As a member of the Nationals, Rzepczynski has often been used as a situational lefty, but this time, he went longer than expected. Rzepczynski managed to get two more outs in the sixth, but he also walked two batters before being replaced by another lefty, Sammy Solis, who was able to get Adrian Gonzalez to fly out to Werth in left.

Solis gets big out in the 6th

"We stretched [Rzepczynski] out further than we usually do," Baker said. "We stretched him out because of the time of the game that we were in, and I think he tired a bit. That's why I went and got him, you know, because usually he's throwing ground balls. He usually doesn't walk people, and ... he had walked two people in that inning."

After Rzepcynski left the game, the four Washington relievers -- Solis, Blake Treinen, Oliver Perez and Mark Melancon -- retired 10 of the Dodgers' last 11 batters, with Melancon picking up a save. The bullpen's performance on Sunday reminded Rzepczynski of the 2011 World Series champion Cardinals, who beat the Rangers in seven games. Rzepczynski was a key member of that Cardinals relief corps.

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"It's very similar. You have one guy that can get one hitter out. At the same time, you can go get a guy who pitches multiple innings if you need to," he said. "Any one of us can do that. It's starts with having a closer like Mark.

"In '11, we had [Jason] Motte. It's similar from the back end down. We feed off each other if we have to get one out or six outs. It doesn't matter."

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.