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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.

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Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time

Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time

HOUSTON -- Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer, Howie Kendrick had a two-run triple and the Washington Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time, 4-3 Tuesday night in a matchup of division leaders.

Washington's winning streak over the Astros dates to 2012. The Nationals have won 13 of 14 against Houston since 2011.

Kendrick's triple tied it in the third before the Astros went back on top with an RBI single by Josh Reddick in the bottom half. Anthony Rendon doubled with two outs in the fourth before the homer by Wieters, which landed just to the right of straightaway center field, gave the NL East leaders a 4-3 lead.

Tanner Roark (10-8) allowed six hits and two earned runs in 5 2-3 innings and Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

Charlie Morton (10-6) gave up four runs in six innings for the AL West-leading Astros.

The Astros threatened in the eighth against Brandon Kintzler when Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles and the Nationals intentionally walked Carlos Beltran with one out to load the bases. But Max Stassi grounded into a double play to leave Houston trailing.

George Springer led off the Houston first with a single, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Reddick.

Beltran doubled off the wall in left-center field in the second and scored on a single by Derek Fisher.

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Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

When Max Scherzer was a teenager, he didn't know that one day he'd actually become a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He had no guarantee he'd make it to the majors, much less play in five consecutive MLB All-Star games. 

All he knew was that he had the option to go pro as a kid or go to college, and back then, the Nationals' ace needed a contingency plan in case baseball didn't work out. Fortunately for Scherzer, it did, but he doesn't regret going to college at the University of Missouri, telling Santana Moss on CSN's "Route 89" going to school was a no-brainer.

"It was actually a really easy decision," Scherzer told Moss. "When you get drafted out of high school, you're going to be going into the minor leagues, and that can take three to five or six years — multiple years — in the minor leagues, and you're forfeiting your right to further your education."

Scherzer was drafted in the 43rd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, but he opted to play for Mizzou for three years, which turned out to be a great decision. The Arizona Diamondbacks then drafted him in 2006 in the first round as the 11th overall pick. 

"A lot of times when you sign out of high school, you don't make it to the major leagues," Scherzer continued. "So I realize that your education — that's your safety net.

"You need to further your education in college, and if you do get drafted out of college, you're in a much better position to try to chase your dreams because if it doesn't work out, you still have one year left of school and that's much easier to obtain rather than try to go through four years when you're not coming out of high school."

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