5:37 PM EST, FSN – Line: Washington -210
Home field field hasn’t proven to be much of an advantage in the Playoffs at this point, which is something that the Washington Nationals can attest to as they look to avoid an 0-2 whole today against the San Francisco Giants in Game Two of the National League Division Series. Washington (96-66) joined both Los Angeles and Anaheim as hosts that blew their Division Series’ openers, as they fell 3-2 against the visiting Giants Friday Night. Matt Williams’ club looked lethargic for the majority of the contest, managing just six hits against a team that took part in the Wild Card playoff. The Nationals struggled to reach home until the Seventh Inning, when Bryce Harper and Asdrubal Cabrera went yard, cutting the deficit to one, but at that point it quickly became a case of too little too late. Despite the late surge, the top half of the order mustered just 4-for-21 from the plate, with Harper accounting for half of said hits. On the mound Stephen Strasburg (14-11, 3.14 ERA) was throwing flames (97.4 MPH on his fastball), but simply wasn’t very sharp in his postseason debut, allowing a pair of runs on eight hits in just five innings of work, striking out a pair while walking one. Of the 25 batters he faced only ten of them saw a strike on the first pitch, forcing the ace to work form behind in the count early and often. The loss was his first at home since September 10th.
If the Nationals are to avoid falling behind the proverbial eight ball, then they will need tonight’s starter Jordan Zimmermann to pitch like he did during his last start. Zimmermann (14-5, 2.66 ERA) saved his best for last, as he pitched a 1-0 no-hitter to close out the Regular Season against the Miami Marlins. The 28-year old right-hander went the distance, striking out ten Marlins, while walking just one, with 79 of his 104 total pitches registering as strikes. Unlike his counterpart on the mound tonight he has entered the Playoffs riding a wave of momentum; the two-time All-Star earned a victory in four consecutive starts, and hasn’t lost a decision in fourteen straight starts, going 8-0 since July 11th. Playing the entirety of his career thus far in the Nation’s Capital, Zimmermann has made just one postseason start, and it was far from a memorable one; in a 12-4 loss to the Cardinals, the veteran lasted just three innings, relinquishing five runs on seven hits, including a home run. Over the course of his six-year career, he has faced the Giants eight times, going 5-2 with a 2.79 ERA, allowing 17 hits, with 43 strikeouts opposed to nine walks. They met just once this year, a a 6-2 Nationals’ victory in which Zimmermann yielded a pair of runs on seven hits over eight innings, striking out eight while issuing no walks.
Meanwhile, we’ve said it before, but once again it bares repeating: all you have to do is get into the Playoffs, and then anything can happen. It’s an all too familiar cliche for the Giants (88-74), who have served as the epitome of that train of thought in recent years, winning the World Series in both 2010 and 2012. After missing the postseason last year, Bruce Bochy’s boys are back with a vengeance; San Francisco went into PNC Park and dominated Pittsburgh to the tune of 8-0 on Wednesday Night, then turned right around and shocked top-seeded Washington in Game One of the NLDS. Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.73 ERA) was untouchable for the majority of Friday’s start, carrying a no-hitter well into the Fifth Inning. The 33-year old, former Cy Young-winner earned his first career postseason victory, yielding no runs on two hits in 5.2 innings of labor, registering three strikeouts and three walks apiece. Five Relievers succeeded him over the following four innings, with Santiago Casilla earning the save thanks to a perfect Ninth Inning. The visitors produced enough from the plate to steal home field advantage from the Nats, racking up a dozen hits, despite stranding ten on base. Joe Panik got things started in the Third Inning with an RBI Single to Center, bringing Travis Ishikawa home, while Brandon Belt drove Hunter Pence home with a single of his own in the Fourth. Finally, Panik scored the third and final run on Buster Posey’s infield single.
With Friday’s victory, the Giants set a National League record, with the longest postseason winning streak, stretching it to nine games. That number represents the fourth-longest in Major League History, and the longest since Boston matched matched that figure back in 2009. Furthermore, San Francisco has won six straight Playoff games on the road, which is good for the longest streak in Major League History. Bochy’s charges matched up very well with the hard-throwing Strasburg; despite their opponent averaging well over 94.0 miles per hour on his fastball, the visitors batted a stellar .272 against pitches of 93.0 miles per hour or greater, third-best in the Majors. Now if those lofty streaks are to continue, then they will have to rely on yet another veteran arm, as Tim Hudson steps up to the bump in search of his first postseason victory since 2010. Hudson (9-13, 3.57 ERA), even at the age of 38 has proven that he still has something left in the tank, helping to supplement the rotation after fellow starters Ryan Voglesong and Matt Cain spent prolonged time on the Disabled List. He was selected to his fourth All-Star Team, while posting the lowest Walks per Nine Innings of his career (1.6). In nine career postseason starts, he has earned a 1-3 record with a 3.46 ERA, but owns a poor 1.85 Strikeout/Walk Ratio. Hudson has not been hot heading into this postseason, taking a loss in each of his final four starts, allowing a total of sixteen runs over 16.2 innings of work.