Quick Links

Zimmerman's multi-hit night, Severino's playoff debut and other positives from Game 1

Zimmerman's multi-hit night, Severino's playoff debut and other positives from Game 1

The Nationals 4-3 loss to the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NL Division Series was defined by starter Max Scherzer’s early struggles and the offense’s squandered opportunities against Clayton Kershaw. Though Washington finds itself in a 1-0 hole, there were a few positive developments that came out of Friday’s game that could pay dividends as the series progresses.  

Zimmerman’s return: For most of the season, Dusty Baker has called Ryan Zimmerman his “hard luck” guy; the hitter that has squared up his fair share of pitches only to have them land right at a defender. On Friday night, the veteran first baseman finally had a few of those well-struck balls fall for hits. Zimmerman finished the game 2-for-4 with a pair of single off Kershaw and couple of deep fly outs that briefly looked like they’d leave the yard.  

“I thought that I had a really good approach tonight,” Zimmerman said.  “I hit three balls hard off of Clayton and then just missed a slider off of Baez there. I feel good, so hopefully I can carry that into tomorrow and hopefully for a lot more games here this month.”

“It was real good. He was being aggressive,” Baker added. “He's seeing the ball well and it's right on time. We anticipate more of that tomorrow, during the game. And he just missed two home runs, one to right and one to left. And so, that's a great sign, when he's hitting the ball like that.”

Severino’s impresses in playoff debut: Obviously, the Nats would much rather have Wilson Ramos as their starting catcher in the playoffs. But with the All-Star lost with an ACL tear, it was up to rookie Pedro Severino to pick up the slack. And the result, to the surprise of some, was much better than expected. The 23-year-old went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored off Kershaw.

"Very excited to participate and try to enjoy the moment,” he said through an interpreter. 

“He did a great job,” Baker said. “He did a great job calling pitches. He hit a couple balls extremely hard....Seve was Seve. He has good life. You know that he's exuberant. You know that he wants to win.”

In addition to what he did at the plate, Severino served as Scherzer's battery mate for just the second time in his career. 

“I’m very excited and grateful that Scherzer gave me the confidence to catch him and we did a pretty good job of limiting the damage out there,” Severino said. “We’re working very well as a unit. We were able to keep the team in the game 4-0 and kept it there.”

Baker said that Severino will likely be on the bench to start Game 2 because of Jose Lobaton's career numbers against starter Rich Hill. But if Game 1 was indication, the moment isn't too big for the rookie catcher. 

Solis shines, too: Speaking of first-time contributors, Sammy Solis acquitted himself quite well in his first-ever playoff appearance. Coming in relief of Scherzer in the seventh inning, the 28-year-old lefty pitched two scoreless frames to keep the deficit at 4-3. That Baker went to Solis immediately after taking out Scherzer demonstrates a growing trust in someone who has become the bullpen's most reliable south paw. 

Robinson’s ends extra-base drought: After the All-Star break, reserve first baseman Clint Robinson was 26-for-103 — all of those hits singles. In fact, his last extra-base hit came on a July 8 home run against the New York Mets. So, as the baseball gods would have it, that drought ended in his first at-bat of the playoffs. He came through with a two-out pinch-hit double in the eighth inning off Dodgers closer Kenlsey Jansen. The two-bagger was not only set up the Nats’ last legitimate scoring opportunity of the night, but it was their only hit off Jansen, who converted a five-out save.

Quick Links

Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wade Davis struck out batting leader Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to end Washington's ninth-inning rally, and the Chicago Cubs held off the Nationals 5-4 Monday night.

In jeopardy of being shut out for the first time this season, the NL East-leading Nationals scored four times in the ninth. Their comeback began against Hector Rondon and continued when Davis entered.

MORE: CSN'S UPDATED MLB POWER RANKINGS

With Washington down 5-3, Bryce Harper's single loaded the bases with two outs. Davis threw a wild pitch that scored a run before striking out a swinging Zimmerman, who's hitting .344. The final pitch bounced, and catcher Willson Contreras zipped a low throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to close out the victory.

Contreras hit a leadoff home run in his first career game-opening at-bat and Eddie Butler (4-2) worked five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs ahead.

Quick Links

2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

The Dodgers are living their best life right now. 

Cody Bellinger looks like he's just going to go and hit two home runs a game for the rest of the year, Yasiel Puig is fun again and they're fresh off a 10-game win streak. Kenley Jansen went 112 batters without issuing a walk. All of this is coming, by the way, during a year when Clayton Kershaw is more Very Good than he is Great.

It's a good time to be a fan of an incredibly young and talented team in a top-5 market with a well-regarded front office that's been written a blank check. How did everyone not named the Dodgers do this week? To the rankings! 

2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

30. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2017 Record: 24-49
Previous Ranking: 30
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Notable Performance:  Maikel Franco (.333/.419/.481 last week)

And there goes Maikel Franco, right back on the trade block. The Phillies' rebuild is starting to look a lot murkier. 

29. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2017 Record: 27-50
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Brandon Belt (.316/.409/.947 last week)

It's weird to see the Giants play THIS poorly. Johnny Cueto is arguably the best available starter on the trade market though, and that obviously bodes well for their future. 

28. CINCINNATI REDS

2017 Record: 29-38
Previous Ranking: 27
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Joey Votto (.360/.385/.680 last week)

When you go 1-9 over the last 10 and let the Nats put an 18-spot on you, you drop a spot or two in the rankings. Them's the rules. 

27. SAN DIEGO PADRES

2017 Record: 31-44
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Notable Performance: Yangervis Solarte (.364/.462/.909 last week)

In an annual July tradition, the Padres will fleece someone for one of their relievers. Brad Hand in a Dodgers uniform, anyone? 

26. DETROIT TIGERS

2017 Record: 32-42
Previous Ranking: 15
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Miguel Cabrera (.400/.444/.840 last week)

The Tigers are our biggest fallers of the week. 2-8 in their last 10, including a frustrating Perfect Game bid broken up by a bunt single. Not their best week. 

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE