Postgame analysis of the Nats' 2-1 win over the Miami Marlins on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park.
How it happened: The Nationals understand all too well how unpredictable and random the MLB postseason can be, how it often doesn't matter where games are played or even who starts those games. The only guarantee in the playoffs is that, no matter which teams face off, plenty of the unexpected will happen. Put simply, it's going to get weird.
But, if given the choice, one would rather take their chances in their home park to both begin a series, and end it if a Game 5 is necessary. The Nats will have that privilege as on Saturday, they locked up home field advantage in the NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That means, to start, they won't have to face superstar pitcher Clayton Kershaw on the road. He'll have to test his luck in their house in a matchup of Cy Young-winning aces with Max Scherzer. Surely those with tickets to Friday's Game 1 won't complain about that pitching matchup.
The Nats earning home field advantage was made official by the Dodgers' 3-0 loss to the Giants, but soon after that the Nats beat the Marlins 2-1 for good measure. They earned the win behind another solid performance by Tanner Roark, who polished off his best regular season as a pro, one that might earn him a few Cy Young votes. He went 5 2/3 innings with one run allowed on 109 pitches.
Trea Turner led the way on offense, as he has so often done in the second half of this season. He had two hits, including his 13th homer of the season, another no-doubter to left field. Bryce Harper drove in the first run on a single to center, a hit that scored Turner. Michael Taylor had two singles and a steal. Danny Espinosa also had a pair of knocks.
The Nationals bounced back from their Friday night loss and have now won five of their last eight.
What it means: The Nats improved their overall record to 94-67 with one more game left to go. They are 9-9 against the Marlins this season.
Roark closes a strong year: Roark didn't go as deep as he often does, but Saturday was certainly a successful final stop on the way to the postseason. The Nats right-hander gave up three hits and four walks, but only surrendered one run. He limited the damage from those walks against a team that has had his number for the most part this season. Roark's lone run was on a single by Chris Johnson in the sixth inning, the final at-bat before he was pulled for Blake Treinen.
Roark received a standing ovation from the Nationals crowd as he walked to the dugout, a well-deserved show of appreciation for his 2016 season. Roark earned his 16th win, a career-high, and finished with a 2.83 ERA. That's slightly better than the 2.85 mark he had in 2014, and it's good for seventh among all MLB starters.
Roark logged 210 innings through 34 outings, 33 of them starts. He lasted seven innings or more in 18 starts this season and in 15 of those held opponents to two earned runs or less. Roark has established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball and will be extremely important for the Nats in the playoffs with Stephen Strasburg out indefinitely.
Turner gets two hits again: It was another multi-hit game for Turner, who now has 34 of them in 72 total outings this season, 69 of them starts. He also walked on Saturday and stole a base. The Nats rookie is currently batting .342 with 13 homers, 39 RBI, 53 runs and 32 steals. Turner has cooled off in recent weeks, but now has four hits in his last two games, one a homer and one a triple.
Harper gets a hit: After going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts on Friday, his first game back since jamming his left thumb, it was a positive sign to see Harper land his first hit, an RBI single, despite the fact he also struck out twice. Harper only has so many opportunities to get his rhythm back with the season ending on Sunday. He will likely get some action in a simulated game this week, but that can only help so much.
Up next: The Nats and Marlins meet on Sunday for the final game of the regular season, a 3:05 p.m. start with Max Scherzer (19-7, 2.82) set to face off with right-hander Tom Koehler (9-13, 4.15).
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