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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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Mike Rizzo details the rehabilitation process for Bryce Harper to return for Nationals

Mike Rizzo details the rehabilitation process for Bryce Harper to return for Nationals

When Bryce Harper went down Saturday night during the Nationals' game against the San Francisco Giants, everyone in D.C. stopped breathing for a moment. This was true even for Nats GM Mike Rizzo.

"We've all felt it," Rizzo said. "You get that little pit in your stomach and it's the same feeling I had when [Wilson] Ramos went out."

RELATED: HOW JUDGE COULD HELP NATS KEEP HARPER IN WASHINGTON

The Nats' star right fielder was running out a ground ball to first base when his left leg hit a slippery base, causing his knee to hyperextend. Harper immediately went down and grabbed his knee in agony. He eventually had to be helped off the field.

The team has been plagued with injuries this season, from the bullpen to outfielders.

After the initial shock of seeing one of his best players go down with what could have been a season-ending injury, Rizzo told the Sports Junkies he went in 'GM mode.'

"You immediately go to GM mode. We immediately called our farm director, Doug Harris, and made arrangements to get Michael Taylor on a plane. Pull him out of the game in double A, get him on a plane and bring him here because we knew that we needed a player that next day. You know, you gotta change gears quick."

"Then I went down to see Harp in the clubhouse. When I saw him walking up the stairs from the dugout to the clubhouse, I was a little bit relieved. You never know with those injuries. Until you get the MRIs, until you see maybe a day or two later what transpired in there, you have to be cautiously optimistic, I guess that it wasn't an [Adam] Eaton type of thing where you knew immediately that he was gone for the season."

While everyone was waiting to see the severity of Harper's injury, Mike Rizzo and his team were making a game plan.

"You go into your evaluation mode. You look at the depth of your roster. What's next? You get the cabinet together, we were all in the GM box watching the game, so we were all together and kind of put our heads together to try to come up with a plan.

"If it's a light injury, if it's a year-ending injury, what do we do? What are the plans? And you know, you put plans together. If I'm not mistaken it was like the first inning or second inning or something like that. It was early in the game, so we had three hours to lament over it and think about what we're trying to do and put a game plan together kind of on the fly. We literally had Michael Taylor flying into D.C. later that evening so we kind of had to turn things around pretty quickly."

Now that the GM knows Harper's injury is a significant bone bruise, what steps does the team take to get him back on the diamond as soon as possible?

"If I had a time frame for you, I would give it to you. But there's no sense of putting on a time frame because the injury, the bone bruise, has to heal before he can do any type of rehab, stimulated rehab, baseball activities. He's not doing anything below the waist.

"He's doing his workout programs. He's doing all his weight work, all his cardio, all the things he has to do above the waist. But, we don't want him weight-bearing impacting with running and hitting and spinning, you know when you stick a swing and that type of thing, until he feels much much better and he's asymptomatic with the pain in his knee."

Rizzo said Harper will eventually progress to an AlterG treadmill, an anti-gravity treadmill that speeds up the rehabilitation process by supporting as much or as little body weight as needed.

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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.