Worst not again: Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez managed to keep him in the park this time, but Dodgers rookie Corey Seager gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the first inning for the third consecutive game. After Gonzalez issued a one-out walk to Justin Turner, Seager, who blasted solo home runs in his first at-bats on Friday and Sunday, hit a double in the gap. Seager’s only hits in the series have come in the first inning. Maybe the Nationals should pitch around him in his first plate appearance of Game 4?
Best wheels: Trea Turner’s speed is one of the few things that rivals the first-inning exit velocity of the ball off Seager’s bat. The Nationals’ rookie led off the third inning with a single to center and scored to tie the game on a double to right field by Jayson Werth, who took third base on the relay throw home.
Best Bryce: Daniel Murphy followed with a fly ball that wasn’t deep enough to score Werth, but Bryce Harper picked him up with a single to right that gave Washington the lead. Harper then stole second and advanced to third on a wild throw by catcher Yasmani Grandal, but could have conserved his energy and chilled at first base had he known Kenta Maeda would throw a meatball two pitches later.
Best bomb: Anthony Rendon jumped all over Maeda’s mistake for the first postseason home run of his career, giving the Nationals a 4-1 lead.
Worst question: One of the bullet-points in MLB Network’s graphic about Maeda, a 28-year-old rookie who previously starred in Nippon Professional Baseball, read, “Japanese Koufax?” Maeda (16-11, 3.48 ERA) had a fine season, but it would would become clear over the first three innings, if it wasn’t already, that the comparison was a stretch. Sandy Koufax posted a 0.95 ERA in eight postseason games; Maeda lasted three innings Monday, allowing four runs on five hits.
Best shutdown inning: It wasn’t a stress-free frame — they rarely are when Gonzalez is on the mound — but the Nationals’ lefty, making his fourth career postseason start with Washington, struck out Seager to strand Howie Kendrick at third base to end the third inning and preserve his three-run lead.
Worst old nemesis: Gonzalez worked a 1-2-3 fourth, but ran into trouble again in the fifth. After Joc Pederson singled with one out, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts called on 37-year-old catcher Carlos Ruiz to pinch-hit for relief pitcher Pedro Baez. Ruiz, who was acquired by L.A. from the Phillies in August, has more career home runs against the Nationals than any other team, including one off Gonzalez in April. Chooch’s first home run as a Dodger cut Washington’s lead to one and prompted Nationals Manager Dusty Baker to go to his bullpen.
Best relief: Sammy Solis was solid out of the Nationals’ bullpen for a third straight game, allowing one hit and one walk in 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Oliver Perez got one out in the seventh before yielding to Shawn Kelley, who was perfect in his postseason debut with three strikeouts over 1 2/3 innings. It was still a 4-3 game after eight innings.
Best insurance runs: Werth, who struck out against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to end Game 1, got some revenge and gave the Nationals a little breathing room with a 450-foot home run to lead off the ninth inning. Jansen then walked Murphy, grazed Harper with a slider and, after getting Rendon to foul to to first, gave up a two-run double to Ryan Zimmerman that should have been caught by right fielder Josh Reddick. Many Dodgers fans were already en route to their cars when Zimmerman scored Washington’s fourth run of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Chris Heisey.
Best hit-by-a-strike: Danny Espinosa is putting together one of the stranger batting lines in postseason history. The Nationals’ shortstop struck out for the sixth time in six postseason at-bats in the second inning and was hit by a pitch for the third time this series — on what appeared to be a strike, no less — in his second plate appearance. Espinosa put the ball in play for the first time in three games with a pop out to first base to end the fifth inning before being replaced by Stephen Drew.
Worst LOB: With tough acts to follow after Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill both struck out the side in the first inning of Games 1 and 2, respectively, Maeda whiffed Turner on three pitches to start Game 3, but gave up a one-out single to Werth. The Nationals eventually loaded the bases for Zimmerman, who was 0 for 11 in that situation during the regular season and struck out on three pitches to end the inning.
Best Lob(y): Game 2 hero and Gatorade-cup goggle maker Jose Lobaton led off the sixth inning with a single back up the middle. Lobaton was lifted for pinch runner Pedro Severino, who was stranded at third base.
Best fake-out: Harper caught the final out of the fourth inning and faked as if he were going to throw the ball to a group of fans in the right field stands before turning and heading toward the dugout. As some fans booed, Harper stopped to give the ball to a tiny Dodgers fan. Awwwwwww…
Worst fake-out: Nationals fans watching on TV were given a scare by Bob Costas’s call of Yasiel Puig’s fly ball to left field to lead off the sixth inning. “Well, he SAW THAT PRETTY WELL,” Costas started, as Werth took a few steps in and camped under a routine out. “Not so much. It had the home run cut, it had the sound, but he did not get all of it.” Costas wasn’t the only one fooled. Somewhere, Bob Carpenter was smiling.
Worst pace: It’s a good thing Game 3 took place at Dodger Stadium, where hardly anyone relies on public transportation, because it took 4 hours 12 minutes to complete. That’s only eight minutes shorter than the longest nine-inning game in postseason history (Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS), which featured 27 runs and 37 hits. Maybe the two teams were jet-lagged from the coast-to-coast trip. It didn’t help matters that Baez pitched two innings.
Best clock: When Baez came on in relief of Maeda to start the fourth inning, Costas immediately let viewers know that he “takes his sweet time” and averages 30.2 seconds between pitches, the longest in MLB this season. While MLB Network’s graphic showing the alignment of the defense was mostly useless, the clock between pitches was most excellent. Baez took 34 seconds between balls three and four to Zimmerman in the fifth inning, which put two on with two out and prompted an even lengthier delay as Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt visited the mound.
Best or worst shadows: I’m indifferent about shadows, but there were a lot of them, and for a while it appeared we might get a sunset, too.
Best opening: MLB Network’s intro video featuring Tom Selleck and airing exclusive footage of legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully was beautiful.
Best closing (in a non-save situation): Mark Melancon needed only nine pitches in the ninth to end the game.