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Baker explains reasoning for his Nats NLDS roster construction

Baker explains reasoning for his Nats NLDS roster construction

With the Nationals NL Division Series roster revealed Friday morning, manager Dusty Baker explained some of his more surprising choices.

Perhaps the biggest eyebrow-raising move was the decision to tap outfielder Michael Taylor over veteran Ben Revere, who struggled this season but has playoff experience.

“We needed some balance,” Baker said before Friday’s NLDS opener. “We had a predominantly left-handed hitting bench and we just that for this series, that the things that Michael can do and bring to the table was better for this roster.”

Taylor has had a bit of an odyssey in 2016. Unexpectedly playing everyday following Revere’s opening day oblique injury, the 25-year-old struggled to convince the Nats that he should be a permanent part of the lineup. He was eventually sent down to Triple-A Syracuse and returned to the majors in late August. He only had 28 at-bats after the All-Star break.

Add in an apparent thumb injury he suffered earlier in the week, and Taylor didn’t look like someone who would be playing in October. 

“We’re confident,” Baker said. “We wouldn’t have put him on there if we thought he couldn’t perform. So we watched him the last couple days, a trainer has been working with him big time. So, yeah, we’re confident.”

The other area where the Nats with with youth over experience was in the bullpen. Rookie Reynaldo Lopez, who impressed Baker as a long reliever in September, was put on the roster over Yusmeiro Petit. Right-handed reliever Matt Belisle was also left off the team in favor of an extra southpaw to combat the Dodgers’ bevy of left-handed bats in their lineup.

“That was tough,” Baker said. “It’s tough, even though they will be traveling with the team, and they will be helping some of the younger guys. Petit had not pitched well as of late, and Belisle had not had much activities of late.”

In all, the Nats will carry 14 position players and 11 pitchers on their 25-man playoff roster. Baker said that he wanted to have more position players available because of the injuries to some of his key regulars. 

"We needed the extra bodies instead of going with eight guys in the bullpen," he said. "We have some guys banged up, some guys that we may have to hit for or run for."

Of those on the roster, five of them are rookies: Relievers Sammy Solis and Reynaldo Lopez, center fielder Trea Turner, infielder Wilmer Difo and catcher Pedro Severino. 

[MORE: NATIONALS ANNOUNCE PLAYOFF ROSTER FOR NLDS VS. DODGERS]

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Howie Kendrick hits two homeruns for Nationals against former team

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Howie Kendrick hits two homeruns for Nationals against former team

WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez allowed two hits in six scoreless innings, Howie Kendrick hit two solo home runs and the Washington Nationals snapped the Los Angeles Angels' winning streak at six with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.

Gonzalez (11-5) struck out four and issued three walks in lowering his home ERA to 1.79, now the best in baseball. The left-hander, who was three outs from a no-hitter July 31 at Miami, allowed his first hit two hits into the fifth against the Angels.

Los Angeles, which had climbed into an AL wild-card spot during its streak, lost for the first time since Aug. 7. Tyler Skaggs (1-3) allowed the two home runs to Kendrick and five other hits while striking out six in five innings.

Kendrick has homered in three of his past four at-bats after hitting a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning Sunday night against San Francisco.

Playing their third game since Bryce Harper went on the 10-day disabled list with a bone bruise in his left knee, the Nationals got an insurance run in the sixth on a wild pitch by Bud Norris and an error on Angels first baseman Albert Pujols. That provided some extra breathing room when Cliff Pennington hit a home run in the eighth, the first run Brandon Kintzler has allowed since being traded to Washington from Minnesota.

With Ryan Madson's availability in question after dealing with a blister Sunday, the Nationals went with Matt Albers in the seventh, Kintzler in the eighth and Sean Doolittle in the ninth. Doolittle picked up his 12th save of the season and his ninth with Washington.

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Howie Kendrick's extra-inning grand slam finally puts Nats-Giants series to bed

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Howie Kendrick's extra-inning grand slam finally puts Nats-Giants series to bed

Howie Kendrick is still new to the Nationals. He doesn't have the same level of frustration with the San Francisco Giants as the rest of his teammates. 

But after watching teammate Bryce Harper suffer a freakish knee injury against the Giants on Saturday, the former Angels and Phillies second baseman decided to join the on-again off-again rivalry on Sunday night, finally putting an end to a series that felt like it took forever to finish.

A Pablo Sandoval solo home run off Max Scherzer tied things up in the seventh inning at Nationals Park, and after two scoreless innings, the two teams appeared once again destined to do this forever. After all, the two teams had played earlier in the day, a game that started less than twelve hours after their Saturday night game had ended, a game which was interrupted by a lengthy rain delay.

Daniel Murphy singled off Alberto Suarez to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning. Ryan Zimmerman followed with a single of his own. Anthony Rendon was then intentionally walked, which brought Kendrick to the plate.

Howie Kendrick did not mess around.

RELATED: HARPER AVOIDS MAJOR INJURY

The home run was the 99th of Kendrick's career and his first-ever grand slam.

And like that, the Nationals 6-2 victory finally put their series with the Giants to rest, after 29 innings in just over 24 hours.