August 8, 2020

Washington Nationals NLDS Game 4: Nats fall short in San Fran; eliminated from playoffs

The San Francisco Giants scored three runs — without the benefit of a base hit — and beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 to eliminate the Nats 3-1 in the five game National League Divisional Series.

The game was filled with poor umpiring, bad defense by the Nats, and questionable managerial decisions.

The wheels came off for Gio Gonzalez in the second inning. Brandon Crawford singled with one out, and went to second when Gonzalez failed to field a comebacker by Juan Perez that had some wicked spin on it.

Ryan Vogelsong tried to sacrifice, but Gonzalez inexplicably got in Anthony Rendon’s way and all hands were safe. Gonzalez then walked leadoff hitter Gregor Blanco to force in a run. Pitching coach Steve McCatty went out to calm Gonzalez down, and Gio got Joe Panik to ground to first — though a second run came in — and Buster Posey grounded to third to finally end the inning.

In the fifth, Ian Desmond led off with a single to left center, then Bryce Harper laced an opposite field double to the left field corner and Desmond scored from first to cut the deficit to 2-1. Wilson Ramos and Asdrubal Cabrera both failed to move the runner over, so Nate Schierholtz was called to bat for Gonzalez.

Schierholtz got behind in the count, but coaxed a walk as both managers had pitchers warming in the pen. But Vogelsong got Denard Span to ground to first and the Nats stranded Harper, who stood at second with no outs.

Gonzalez’ night was over early due to the pinch-hit and Nats systemic lack of offense in the series. He went four innings, allowing two runs — none earned — on four hits and one walk, striking out one. He threw 55 pitches, 37 of which were strikes.

The Giants loaded the bases against Tanner Roark in the fifth with one out, including a fielder’s choice by Adam LaRoche where he threw home to cut down a runner from third that never took off. Manager Matt Williams called upon lefty Jerry Blevins to face Game 2’s hero, Brandon Belt.

In a huge spot, Blevins used a pair of curveballs to strike out Belt and keep the Nats in a one-run game.

It stayed that way until the seventh. Giants manager brought on Hunter Strickland to face the 6-7-8 hitters. Ian Desmond lined out to right, but Harper, on a 3-1 count, absolutely crushed a 97-MPH fastball over the right field foul pole and into McCovey Cove for Harper’s fourth career postseason home run, tying the Major League record for most homers by a player under the age of 22.

But the Giants wouldn’t be denied. In the bottom of the inning, Joe Panik and Buster Posey both singled with one out against Matt Thornton. Instead of bringing out Tyler Clippard or Rafael Soriano, Williams went with Aaron Barrett. Barrett walked Hunter Pence, then against Pablo Sandoval uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Panik to break the tie.

With first base open, Williams ordered Barrett to intentionally walk Sandoval, but on the first wide one he threw to the backstop. Ramos made a great grab and leaping throw and Barrett blocked the plate enough to nail Posey at home for the second out of the inning.

After the review, the play was upheld, and Rafael Soriano entered and got Brandon Belt to fly out to left to end the inning.

But the damage was done.

In the ninth, Adam LaRoche flew out to center field and Ian Desmond was called out on a controversial check swing by home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. Harper, who was solely responsible for all the Nats offense, was pitched around for an unintentional intentional walk.

But Wilson Ramos grounded out to second to end the inning and the Nationals season.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP


  1. EastCoastBias says:

    What a shame! Nats need to be careful not to fall into the Dodgers (Puig) way of doing things. An every man for himself attitude won’t do it against a team like SF. They are far too experienced. Harper needs to take off the diaper and play for the team, not himself. Seeing him get his panties in a wad after hitting a home run tells me he’s got a long way to go before he’s ready for the big league win. Composure in the post season is key.

    Better luck next year Nats. Giants were the better team.

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