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Nats' Jose Lobaton's series-changing homer defied odds, elements

Nats' Jose Lobaton's series-changing homer defied odds, elements

Jose Lobaton's three-run, series-altering homer to lift the Nationals to an NLDS Game 2 victory over the Dodgers on Sunday wasn't just surprising because of the man who hit it, because it came from a backup catcher only playing due to an injury. The fact he swung from the right side was also unexpected, given just 16 percent of his at-bats this year were right-handed. But that's not why Lobaton's teammates and coaches, or why Lobaton himself was so shocked it left the park.

No, this particular afternoon at Nationals Park had an extra element to it that made what Lobaton pulled off such a remarkable feat. The wind was so strong it howled in the upper concourse. It swirled and turned towards home plate, pushing just about everything hit to left field back where it came from.

"I've never played a game here with the wind blowing in from left that hard. This game is crazy," veteran Jayson Werth, who has been playing games consistently at Nationals Park since it opened in 2008, said.

"I didn't think anybody could hit a home run out of left field today, the way that wind was blowing everything back," manager Dusty Baker said. "I mean, he had to hit it a ton."

Limited by a sore right ankle, which affected the push from his back leg, Lobaton spent much of his week hitting batting practice from the left side. He hadn't taken an in-game at-bat hitting righty in over a month.

[RELATED: Lobaton unlikely hero as Nats win Game 2, draw even in NLDS]

Yet, somehow he got the ball in the air with enough zip to defy what the rest of his team had accepted as a temporary law of nature, that nothing hit that way was going out, no matter how powerful the source.

"When he hit it, there was a bunch of people in the dugout were cussing because we didn't think he could get it out. All kinds of expletives were being thrown around," Werth said.

Then, it kept going.

"I know he hit it good," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "But every ball that was going to left was getting hit down. [Dodgers left fielder Andrew] Toles, he just kept going back and going back and I was like 'maybe it's got a chance.'"

Lobaton sprinted to first base initially, watching the ball continue to carry. He watched the ball. He kept his eye on Toles.

"I remember the inning before, I was talking to the umpire and I told him 'wow, that wind is really bad for hitters now,'" Lobaton said. "Then, when I hit the ball, I thought I hit it good but I didn't know if it was going to go out. When it went out, I was like 'wow, that's pretty cool!'"

"If Mother Nature wanted to keep it in the yard, I guess she would have," outfielder Bryce Harper said. "But the baseball gods overran her, I guess."

[RELATED: Did Roark intentionally throw at Corey Seager?]

By clearing the fence, Lobaton gave the Nationals their first lead of the NLDS, a 3-2 advantage they would build on in their 5-2 win. It was perfectly-timed lift that flipped the game's momentum in the Nationals' favor.

It also came from a spot that was supposed to be for Wilson Ramos, the team's All-Star catcher that went down in the final week of the regular season with a torn right ACL.

"I love [Ramos] as a friend," Lobaton said. "But it's part of the game… "We don't have Wily. I've got to try to do something for the team. I'm not saying that I'm going to be like Wily and hit a homer and hit .300, but I'm going to do something."

"I'm just so happy for Loby, man," Zimmerman said. "He really deserves it. Wily was obviously having a great year and he didn't get to play that much. He stays ready, he works hard every day. Now he's got an opportunity."

Lobaton followed up a strong outing for fellow catcher Pedro Severino in Game 1. The rookie backstop doubled and scored in the Nats' series-opening loss on Friday. The two are a combined 2-for-7 with a double, homer, three RBI and two runs. They have also worked with the Nationals' pitching staff to hold the Dodgers to just six total runs through two games.

Baker has two catchers who are proving capable as Ramos replacements. But it looks like Lobaton will stay in there for Game 3 on Monday, set for 4:08 p.m. ET in Los Angeles.

"He'll probably be starting against [Kenta] Maeda and catching Gio [Gonzalez] tomorrow," Baker said. "Boy, just keep it coming."

[RELATED: Ramos' first pitch provides special moment for Nats]

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2017 ballpark foods that are way better than peanuts and Cracker Jack

2017 ballpark foods that are way better than peanuts and Cracker Jack

Back in the olden days, cotton candy or a plate of nachos were considered bold ballpark snacks. Thankfully, the olden days are over, and a new era of ballpark food has begun.

And in this era, a menu item isn't considered complete until it's fried, sandwiched between something else and then finally drizzled with some sort of sauce. 

So, what's on the menu for 2017? Well, peanuts, hot dogs and apple pie nachos, of course.

CLICK HERE TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL FIND AROUND MLB THIS YEAR

With a new season about to begin, CSNmidatlantic.com has identified 10 of the most eye-popping and artery-clogging foods available around Major League Baseball in 2017. To see them, simply click on the link above or below to open our gallery (no fork and knife necessary).

After all, while peanuts and Cracker Jack are cute, they simply can't match up with a hot dog topped with bacon and a fried egg. 

CLICK HERE TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL FIND AROUND MLB THIS YEAR

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Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team's opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation. 

Scherzer has been the team's starter on opening day for the past two seasons, but a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger caused him to miss the start of spring training, and the World Baseball Classic. 

Scherzer did, however, make his first MLB spring training start of 2017 on Wednesday. The 2016 NL Cy Young award winner allowed two earned runs on five hits over 4.2 innings. He added four strikeouts and one walk, and reportedly looked just like you would expect from Max Scherzer. 

"To be out there competing, throwing all my pitches, throwing them for strikes, that's a great first outing," Scherzer told Eddie Matz of ESPN after the game. "Finger's good. Finger feels like a finger. I'm getting through that injury. It's behind me now."

With Scherzer set to open the season as the third starter in the rotation, that likely means that Stephen Strasburg will start on opening day against the Miami Marlins, and Tanner Roark will slot in behind him. 

While it's nice to have your ace pitcher starting on opening day, it's not a huge deal to have Scherzer start the season third in the rotation, especially because the Nationals starting rotation is the strength of the team

RELATED: Nationals' Tanner Roark pitches four scoreless innings to help Team USA beat Japan in WBC