MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Stellar bullpen bails out Nats in Game 2 win

Stellar bullpen bails out Nats in Game 2 win

WASHINGTON -- It was an exceptionally windy day at Nationals Park, so more than occasionally random items would blow across the field.

But those items could not compete with the fact that the place was littered with Dodger baserunners left on base. From the second through the sixth innings, the Dodgers left 11 men on base, three times in that five-inning span loading the bases but getting only one run out of those opportunities.

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

The Nationals won Game 2 of this NL Division Series Sunday, 5-2, to even the series at 1-1. It was an absolutely necessary outcome for the Nats, but it did not come with any sort of ease. Game 3 is set for 4 p.m. ET/1 PT on MLBN Monday at Dodger Stadium.

The game was decided in two ways: The Nationals came from behind, with the decisive blow being a fourth-inning, three-run home run by catcher Jose Lobaton. With the knee injury to Wilson Ramos, this was superb contribution from the catching position.

And the rest of it was that five-inning stretch when the Dodgers stranded 11 runners on base. The Dodgers were certainly not short on opportunities. They had eight hits, drew six walks and finished with 12 men left on base. But they did come up shy in the run category.

Nationals pitchers were putting runners on base. But then, in the parlance of the game: "They made pitches when they had to."

You know exactly what that means, but that catch-phrase ends in a preposition. Let us amend it to "They made pitches when they had to make pitches" and proceed.

Washington starter Tanner Roark, who has quietly had an exceptional season, did not qualify for the victory, because he left after 4 1/3 innings. He wasn't satisfied with his command but he did not let the game get out of control early and departed with a 3-2 lead.

The Dodgers loaded the bases with one out in the second against Roark, but could not score. The Dodgers loaded the bases again in the third, and scored one run, but no more as Roark got the inning to end with a double-play grounder.

How did Roark limit the damage in these situations?

"Keep calm, don't let the situation overtake you and let the game speed up-you've got to refocus and take a deep breath, a deep, deep, deep breath," Roark said with a smile. "And think about what you want to execute."

Following Roark, the Nationals' bullpen produced 4 2/3 shutout innings. Marc Rzepczynski relieved Roark, got out of yet another bases-loaded situation with no runs allowed, and then worked into the sixth. After that, Sammy Solis, Blake Treinen, who was awarded the decision, Oliver Perez and closer Mark Melancon, who earned the save, all successfully did their jobs.

"These guys, they're grinders, they're willing to give whatever they have, if it's multiple innings or one hitter," Roark said of the Washington bullpen. "You saw Rzepczynski today, he was out there battling, even though he's not accustomed to going more than one inning. But it's the playoffs, it's time to bear down and do whatever the team asks for.

"We buckled down. It was an impressive win, for sure."

Solis gets big out in the 6th

The Dodgers were left to contemplate what might have been, if they had found that elusive commodity, the one big hit.

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

"Afterward, they got the 'pen in there and then the shadow starts creeping and it gets to be a tougher visual. But like I said, I think we had our opportunities."

There was more than enough credit to go around after the Nationals evened this series. Lobaton hit a huge home run on a day when the ballpark climate was geared toward preventing home runs. Nationals manager Dusty Baker aggressively and astutely used his bullpen. And those Washington pitchers, you know, made pitches when they had to (make pitches).

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.