Playoff Reset: The Dodgers and Nationals backs are against the wall

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source: AP

The Giants and Dodgers let games get away from them yesterday with bad decisions and bad bullpens, respectively. The Giants can still put Washington away today. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have the Dodgers’ backs against the wall. But while both L.A. and the Nats face elimination, each have hope based on the starting pitching matchups. The Dodgers because they have Clayton Kershaw going. The Nats because the Giants have pretty much the polar opposite of Clayton Kershaw going. Both series could end tonight or everyone could live on to play another day. I feel like we’re going to be playing another day in both cases.

The Game: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals, National League Division Series Game 4
The Time: 5:07 PM Eastern
The Place: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
The Channel: Fox Sports 1
The Starters: Clayton Kershaw vs. Shelby Miller
The Upshot: The decision to pitch Clayton Kershaw on short rest seems like and even better one now than it did yesterday. Sure, he may not have his usual amount of stamina, but there is no better way for Don Mattingly to avoid his bullpen than to get a lot of innings from the best pitcher in baseball. Of course, last time out Kershaw tuckered out, abandoned his curve and melted down. Either way, the Dodgers would probably rather take their chances with his arm than with the guys down in that pen. For what it’s worth, Kershaw is 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA in three career starts on three-days rest. The Cardinals, meanwhile, counter with Shelby Miller, who is working on two-weeks’ rest. It’s his first career playoff start.

The Game: Washington Nationals vs. San Francisco Giants, National League Division Series Game 4
The Time: 9:07 PM Eastern
The Place: AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
The Channel: Fox Sports 1
The Starters: Gio Gonzalez vs. Ryan Vogelsong
The Upshot: Runs continue to come at a premium this series, with the Nationals’ breakthrough yesterday coming as a result of Madison Bumgarner’s curious decision to throw to third rather than first on a Wilson Ramos bunt, leading to all the runs the Nats would eventually need. In Gonzalez, the Nats have a guy going who was pretty hot down the stretch, putting up a 4-1 record with a 2.36 ERA in his last seven starts of the year. Such is not the case for the shaky Ryan Vogelsong. One gets the sense that the Giants have ridden him too long based on his nice run in 2011-12. On paper anyway, he may be the worst starter we’ve seen in the postseason thus far. The Nats, particularly, have feasted on him. He’s 1-2 with a 7.94 ERA in five career starts versus Washington. This year against the Nats he’s allowed nine runs and 13 hits over 11 and a third innings across two outings.

Sean Doolittle headed to injured list with knee tendinitis

Sean Doolittle
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The Nationals placed closer Sean Doolittle on the 10-day injured list with a case of right knee tendinitis, according to an official report on Sunday. In a corresponding move, right-handed reliever Kyle McGowin has been recalled from Double-A Harrisburg to give the club some added depth in the bullpen.

The IL assignment comes on the heels of a particularly brutal loss to the Brewers, one in which the Nationals battled through 14 innings and eventually lost, 15-14, on an Eric Thames go-ahead home run. Five innings earlier, Doolittle had blown the save after kicking off the ninth inning with a home run to Christian Yelich, a double to Keston Hiura, and two more back-to-back homers to Mike Moustakas and Ryan Braun. It marked Doolittle’s sixth blown save of the year and the second outing in which he’s given up four runs this month, bringing his totals to an unsightly 12.86 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, and 6.4 SO/9 in August.

Following Saturday’s disappointing performance, Doolittle expressed his frustration with his inability to replicate the results that made him such a consistent force for the Nationals over the past several months. Per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier:

We keep trying to go back to the drawing board,” Doolittle said. “We’re watching film. We’re looking at the metrics. I’m doing extra dry work before games. We’ve changed up a lot of my routine in the weight room and my maintenance programs and stuff. I don’t know, it just wasn’t coming out tonight. And that part of the order, that team, there’s really nowhere to hide.

While the severity of Doolittle’s injury, if that is indeed the root of his problems, has yet to be disclosed, it’s clear the 32-year-old lefty will benefit from some time on the bench. When he returns, he’ll do so in hopes of improving a 4.33 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 10.2 SO/9, and 0.6 fWAR across 52 innings.

Until then, McGowin will provide some temporary relief for the Nationals’ recently-taxed bullpen. As for the closer spot, manager Dave Martinez doesn’t appear to have named any one successor just yet, and it’s not certain that he will at any point, either. For now, Daniel Hudson seems like a logical choice in any save situation, though there’s some speculation that veteran reliever Greg Holland could step into that role as well.