Bill Baer

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 9: Jose Lobaton #59 of the Washington Nationals receives a curtain call after hitting a three run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth inning during game two of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Jose Lobaton helps power Nationals past Dodgers 5-2 in NLDS Game 2


Catcher Jose Lobaton and second baseman Daniel Murphy were the offensive heroes of NLDS Game 2 against the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon as the Nationals won 5-2. Lobaton blasted a three-run homer while Murphy helped out with pair of RBI singles, accounting for all five runs.

The Dodgers had taken a 2-0 lead after three innings as Corey Seager smacked a solo homer in the first inning and Justin Turner drove in the second run with a single in the third. But in the bottom of the fourth, Lobaton turned the game on its head with a well-struck three-run home run to left field off of Rich Hill. Murphy added his RBI singles in the fifth and seventh.

Hill is not prone to yielding home runs as opposing batters hit only four of them during the 2016 regular season — two with the A’s over 14 starts and two with the Dodgers over six starts. Lobaton had only three homers and a .374 slugging percentage over 114 plate appearances. It seems the stars truly aligned for that one.

Neither starter finished the fifth inning. Hill went 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts on 82 pitches. Tanner Roark also went 4 1/3, allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks with a lone strikeout on 85 pitches.

Mark Rzepczynski, Sammy Solis, Blake Treinen, and Oliver Perez combined for 3 2/3 hitless innings of relief for the Nats. Mark Melancon came on in the ninth, getting Seager to ground out for the first out of the final frame. Turner singled, but Melancon recovered by striking out Adrian Gonzalez and getting Josh Reddick out on a 4-3 grounder.

The Dodgers had their opportunities. They had the bases loaded with one out in the second inning, but came up empty twice. They loaded the bases again in the third, but Yasmani Grandal grounded into an inning-ending double play. Again, the Dodgers had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth but Grandal struck out and Howie Kendrick lined out.

With the NLDS now tied at one game apiece, the series will head back to Los Angeles. Monday’s Game 3 will begin at 4:00 PM EDT featuring the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez squaring off against the Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda.

Video: The Indians crush three homers in the third inning

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 06:  Francisco Lindor #12 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox during game one of the American League Divison Series at Progressive Field on October 6, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images
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The Indians were able to narrowly defeat the Red Sox 5-4 on Thursday night in Game 1 of the ALDS. A bulk of that offense came in the third inning when the Indians hit three solo home runs off of Red Sox starter and AL Cy Young contender Rick Porcello.

Roberto Perez led off the frame with a solo shot to right field. Carlos Santana grounded out, then the Indians got right back to business as Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor went back-to-back with solo shots.

The Red Sox hit three solo home runs of their own, but because we like patterns and their homers were spaced out, no video for them.

Terry Francona would gladly pay you Tuesday for a cheeseburger today

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 25:  Manager Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians at Globe Life Park in Arlington on August 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In the Popeye comic back in 1932, character J. Wellington Wimpy uttered the famous phrase, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a cheeseburger today.” It’s a phrase that has since been used to illustrate a lack of foresight — wanting instant gratification for a future cost.

Indians manager Terry Francona played the part of J. Wellington Wimpy during Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox on Thursday night. While his bullpen strategy ultimately worked, it might have ramifications throughout the remainder of the ALDS.

Starter Trevor Bauer found himself in more hot water after allowing a leadoff solo home run to Sandy Leon in the top of the fifth inning, cutting the Indians’ lead to 4-3. After Bauer got Andrew Benintendi to fly out and Dustin Pedroia to strike out, Francona decided to bring in All-Star reliever Andrew Miller. Miller has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season, compiling an aggregate 1.45 ERA with a 123/9 K/BB ratio in 74 1/3 innings this season between the Yankees and Indians. And after we just got done torching Orioles manager Buck Showalter for not bringing in his best reliever, how could we ever criticize Francona here?

The problem was that Miller wasn’t brought into a high leverage situation. FanGraphs and Baseball Reference measure the importance of a situation with the “leverage index” statistic. According to FanGraphs, a “low leverage” situation is between 0 and 0.85, “medium leverage” is 0.85 to 2.00 and “high leverage” is above 2.00. The top of the ninth inning, which was started by Brad Brach, had a leverage index of 2.26 and it only escalated from there to a high of 4.30 when Russell Martin grounded into an inning-ending double play. The 10th and 11th innings started at 2.26. Miller’s first at-bat, against Brock Holt, had a leverage index of 0.57. Of course, Miller increased the leverage of the situation by allowing a double to Holt and walking Mookie Betts, but the Indians could have conceivably worked the fifth inning without expending their best reliever.

Miller also pitched the sixth inning and got the first two outs of the seventh. Those LI’s? 1.21, 0.83, 0.48, 1.32, and 0.88. The lefty finished the night having recorded six outs while throwing 40 pitches, a season-high.

Francona also used closer Cody Allen for a five-out save. Allen’s LI was 1.55 upon entering with one out in the eighth inning and it was 2.83 at the start of the ninth. A one-inning save would’ve made more sense. Allen got his five outs on 40 pitches as well, also a season-high. Allen threw 30-plus pitches only three times this season and had three days’ rest after two of them. Miller threw 30-plus pitches four times and had at least two days’ rest after three of them.

It’s not unreasonable to think that the Indians will look to rely on Corey Kluber for seven or eight innings in Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday. That puts immense pressure on Kluber, but also the rest of the bullpen if Kluber is not able to pitch deep into the game. It wasn’t necessary for Francona to put all of his eggs in the Miller-Allen basket.