CHICAGO — With the exception of their well-timed eighth-inning outburst in Game 2, the Nationals have scored two runs in three games. So with the season on the line in Game 4 Tuesday, Dusty Baker is going back to the lineup he settled on to get his Nationals here in the first place.
Earlier in the season, during the brief moments when everyone was healthy, Baker hit Trea Turner first, Jayson Werth second and Bryce Harper third. He hit Ryan Zimmerman fourth, Daniel Murphy fifth and Anthony Rendon sixth. Tuesday against Jake Arrieta, Baker will use that lineup again.
“This is our most successful lineup that we had,” said Baker, who explained that he was waiting for Harper to get comfortable again before moving him back to third.”…We had faced left-handers the first couple games, and so I shuffled and went back to our original. First time we’ve had that lineup in months since Harp got hurt. Feels pretty good.”
That lineup played just eight games together because Turner pulled a hamstring then broke his wrist, Werth broke his foot, Harper hurt his knee, and so on. It scored 43 runs in those games — more than five per game — a small sample size, but a sample nevertheless.
Some clamored for more change after the Nationals’ 2-1 loss Monday. Adam Lind, who has an .898 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against right-handed pitching, could have made sense against scheduled Cubs starter Jake Arrieta. But Lind would have to play left field to find a home in the lineup, and on a breezy day at Wrigley Field, he would be a defensive liability.
Baker chose to stick with Turner at the top of the order despite his struggles this series. The Nationals’ leadoff man, the one who ran all over these Cubs earlier this season, is 0 for 12 in three games. He and his manager chatted Tuesday morning.
“Anybody that’s been in the playoffs, especially a number of times, have had a tough playoff,” said Baker, who recalled players such as Orlando Cepeda and Dave Winfield struggled like this once or twice in October — and that he did, too. But Baker believes in continuity, and Turner (when healthy) has been at the top of the Nationals order all season.
“This is the lineup that I have a lot of confidence in,” Baker said. “…guys that have had more at-bats, had more reps — the law of averages are on some of our guys’ side. I believe in the law of averages. I feel very good about our chances today.”
Werth, who reached base twice in Game 3, will slide back into the second spot where he hit .242 in 32 games this season. He hit .185 in the sixth spot, where he spent the first three games of this series. Baker has said he thinks Werth’s ability to work counts and foul off pitches fits well nearer the top of the order. He hit .223 with a .691 OPS against righties this season.
“To be honest with you, right now, Jayson deserves more at-bats than me,” Daniel Murphy, who is 1 for 11 this series, said. “He’s had really good at-bats, especially yesterday.”
Rendon, meanwhile, drops back to sixth where he had a 1.017 OPS in 73 games this season. With Harper third and Rendon sixth, Baker maintains the left-right-left-right matchup nightmare in the middle of his order. The last out of two of the first three games came from the sixth spot in the Nationals order.
WASHINGTON NATIONALS (1-2)
Trea Turner SS
Jayson Werth LF
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Daniel Murphy 2B
Anthony Rendon 3B
Matt Wieters C
Michael A. Taylor C
Tanner Roark P
CHICAGO CUBS (2-1)
Jon Jay CF
Kris Bryant 3B
Anthony Rizzo 1B
Willson Contreras C
Ben Zobrist RF
Kyle Schwarber LF
Addison Russell 2B
Javy Baez SS
Jake Arrieta P
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