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Not. Done. Yet! Nationals beat Giants 4-1 in Game 3 of the NLDS to avoid elimination

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The Nationals were struggling to score runs on San Francisco Giants' lefty Madison Bumgarner, but a throwing error on a bunt with two on in the seventh cost the pitcher two runs and the Nats added a third. 4-1 Nationals, 2-1 Giants in the NLDS.

Ezra Shaw

NLDS Game 3 Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Both Washington Nationals' right-hander Doug Fister and San Francisco Giants' lefty Madison Bumgarner started Game 3 of the NLDS with five scoreless innings of work on the mound, Fister on 79 pitches, Bumgarner on 64. Quick sixth innings for each starter kept it 0-0 in AT&T Park.

In the top of the seventh, however, the Nationals finally got to the Giants' 25-year-old lefty. Ian Desmond singled to start the frame. Bryce Harper walked. Wilson Ramos bunted back toward the mound and Bumgarner made an ill-advised attempt to cut the lead runner down and threw it by third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

Two runs scored on the error and Ramos scored from second in the next at bat when Asdrubal Cabrera singled to left to bring the catcher in. 3-0 Nationals.

Bryce Harper flat-crushed a 1-1 fastball from Jean Machi in the top of the ninth and hit a monster shot out to right field for a 4-0 lead. HR no.2 of the postseason for Harper.

Pablo Sandoval singled and scored on a sac fly by Brandon Crawford in the ninth, but that's as close as the Giants got.

The Nationals live to play another day! Giants 2-1 in the NLDS. Nationals 4-1 tonight.

4. Fister's Turn: Doug Fister ended his first campaign in the Washington Nationals' rotation with a complete game shutout of the Miami Marlins back on September 26th.

The 30-year-old, 6'8'' right-hander wrapped up the regular season with a four-start winning streak, going (4-1) overall in September and putting up a 1.87 ERA, a 4.11 FIP and a .205/.265/.336 line against in his final 33 ⅔ IP.

It's been a long time since that last start, of course, but when he talked to reporters on Sunday in San Francisco in anticipation of pitching in the postseason in AT&T Park for the second time in his career, Fister said he was ready to take the mound after watching the first two games of the NLDS.

"I know that I have the right feeling going into tomorrow, and know that what I've worked on for the last eight months is going to be at my fingertips." -Doug Fister on preparing for first postseason start with Nationals

So how did he stay sharp mentally and physically?

"I think it's kind of the mind‑set that you take," he explained. "For me I take the mind‑set no matter when I pitch, whether it's four days or ten days rest, I'm going out there with the same stuff. Every day we have a routine, whether it's play catch for a bullpen, play catch for the intrasquad, play catch for a light day; it doesn't really matter.

"It's something that I know that I'm preparing and I know that I have the right feeling going into tomorrow, and know that what I've worked on for the last eight months is going to be at my fingertips."

Fister said his focus will be on each pitch he has to make throughout the start, not the big picture of the season being on the line.

"We need to‑‑ for me, I need to focus on that first pitch and after that first one, I need to go to the second one and I can't look at anything bigger than that," he explained. "It's something that I have to make sure that I fine tune and stay focused on that fine‑tuned, one‑pitch‑at‑a‑time mentality.

Fister's approach has worked well for him in his first season with the Nationals following the 3-for-1 trade that brought him to D.C. from the Detroit Tigers this winter.

In 25 starts after he returned from a right lat strain which delayed the start of his season, Fister was (16-6) with a 2.41 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 24 walks (1.32 BB/9), 98 Ks (5.38 K/9) and a  in 164 IP.

Fister returned to the postseason for the fourth straight October after going (6-2) in his previous eight appearances, seven of them starts for the Tigers, over which he put up a 2.98 ERA with 13 walks (2.42 BB/9), 37 Ks (6.89 K/9) and a .267/.325/.358 line against in 48 ⅓ IP.

He was making his second postseason start in AT&T Park after dropping a decision to today's opponent on the hill, Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in Game 2 of the World Series in 2012.

Having "been there before" in every sense, he said Sunday, would benefit him when he took the mound in a must-win Game 3.

"I need to focus on that first pitch and after that first one, I need to go to the second one and I can't look at anything bigger than that. It's something that I have to make sure that I fine tune..." -Doug Fister on remaining focused in the must-win Game 3

"I think it's definitely a benefit with having some experience," the six-year major league veteran said.

"This is still a game of coming out here, preparing, making sure that you know you've done the work that you've presented for yourself.

"But it just comes down to executing, and that is a big thing."

Last time out in AT&T Park, back in June, he outdueled, Bumgarner in a June 10th start, throwing seven scoreless innings in a 2-1 win.

This afternoon in San Francisco, Fister's second start of the year against the Giants' lefty in the Giants' home began with a weak bunt attempt...

1st: Gregor Blanco tried to bunt for a hit in the first at bat, but Fister got off the mound quickly and handled it. Joe Panik battled for eight pitches before grounding out to second. Buster Posey's fly to right ended a quick, 16-pitch, 1-2-3 first.

2nd: Pablo Sandoval singled to center on a 3-1 fastball that dropped in front of Denard Span. Hunter Pence sent a fly to left for out no.2. Brandon Belt walked with one out, bringing Brandon Crawford up with two on. Crawford sent a fly to deep left that Bryce Harper caught at the wall in front of the Budweiser sign. Travis Ishikawa worked a two-out walk out of Fister to load the bases for the opposing pitcher. Madison Bumgarner K'd swinging on a 90 mph heater up and in to end a 27-pitch frame that left Fister at 43 total after two.

3rd: Gregor Blanco grounded out to short. Joe Panik grounded to second. Buster Posey singled to right field with two down, dropping fly ball in in front of Jayson Werth. Pablo Sandoval rolled over a first-pitch change to end a 13-pitch frame. 56 total after Fister after three.

4th: Hunter Pence grounded weakly to short. Brandon Belt sent a one-hop liner to right for a one-out single, but he was caught stealing by Wilson Ramos with Brandon Crawford up. Crawford K'd looking at an over-the-top 2-2 curve to end a 12-pitch frame that left Fister at 68 total.

5th: Travis Ishikawa sent a fly ball to center for the first out of the Giants' fifth. Madison Bumgarner worked the count full and took a 3-2 curve for ball four. Gregor Blanco sent a fly to left. Joe Panik's groundout to first ended an 11-pitch frame. 79 pitches for Fister after five.

6th: Buster Posey went down swinging at an 0-2 curve that dropped under his bat. Pablo Sandoval sent a fly to center for out no.2. Hunter Pence sent a fly to foul territory in right field where Adam LaRoche caught out no.3 of a quick, eight-pitch frame. 87 pitches overall.

7th: Brandon Belt singled to right to start the Giants' seventh. Brandon Crawford moved the runner up with a weak groundout to second. Travis Ishikawa lined to left-center in the next at bat, but Bryce Harper made a diving catch for out no.2. Matt Duffy hit for Bumgarner, and grounded out to second to end a 12-pitch frame that left Fister at 99 pitches overall.

Doug Fister's Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 99 P, 64 S, 9/6 GO/FO.

3. MadBum in AT&T: Madison Bumgarner lost to right-hander Doug Fister and the visiting Nationals when they came to AT&T Park back on June 10th, but he gave up just eight hits and two earned runs in that outing, which Washington won, 2-1.

The loss left the 25-year-old left-hander, selected by San Francisco 10th overall in the first-round of the 2007 Draft out of South Caldwell High School in Hudson, North Carolina, (2-3) in seven career starts against the Nats, over which the Giants' southpaw put up a 2.60 ERA, with seven walks (1.40 BB/9), 40 Ks (8.00 K/9) and a .246/.286/.374 line against in 45 IP.

Nationals' manager Matt Williams, who has seen the lefty repeatedly over the years during his time as a coach in Arizona, was asked on Sunday what makes Bumgarner so difficult for opposing hitters?

"Crossfire fastballs to the right‑handers. He pitches in effectively. He's a big guy. He throws the ball, you know, low-to-mid 90s, but it's even better than that because the ball jumps on you." -Matt Williams on difficulty of facing Madison Bumgarner

"Crossfire fastballs to the right‑handers," Williams said. "He pitches in effectively. He's a big guy. He throws the ball, you know, low-to-mid 90s, but it's even better than that because the ball jumps on you. And he rakes."

Bumgarner did finish the 2014 campaign with a .258/.286/.470 line at the plate, something his opponent on the mound, Doug Fister, said he was aware of when preparing to face the Giants.

"Bumgarner is obviously statistically a very good hitter," Fister said, "and that's somebody I don't take lightly. Not one of those guys in their lineup, 1 through 9, or coming in off the bench, those guys are a threat with a bat, and I have to approach that situation as such."

Bumgarner started the Wild Card Game with the Pittsburgh Pirates in PNC Park last Wednesday, throwing a complete game shutout to get the Giants to the NLDS matchup with the Nationals.

He finished the second-half of his sixth major league campaign with an (8-3) record in 13 starts, over which he put up a 2.29 ERA, a 3.17 FIP and a .205/.239/.347 line against in 90 ⅓ IP.

Going into today's start, up 2-0 in the NLDS, he said he knew he was in for a fight with the Nationals trying to avoid being eliminated from the postseason.

"It's very important for us to come in tomorrow and don't miss a beat," Bumgarner said. "Get right back after it, and keep playing good baseball and stay focused, don't relax any, because that team over there is not going to. They are not going to give in. They are going to keep battling the whole way through. So we've got to keep doing what we're doing."

Bumgarner took the mound this afternoon with a (3-2) record, a 3.79 ERA and a .263/.317/.391 line against in seven games, six starts and 35 ⅔ postseason innings pitched.

The seventh postseason start of his career began with a scoreless 18-pitch first in which he worked around a one-out single by Nationals' third baseman Anthony Rendon.

Wilson Ramos K'd swinging at a 2-2 slider for the final out of the second, leaving him 1 for 11 with six Ks so far in the NLDS. Bumgarner's eight-pitch frame left him at 26 total after two.

Denard Span snapped an 0 for 12 start to the postseason with a two-out single to left in the Nats' third, and Anthony Rendon lined a single to left field in the next at bat to put two on in front of Jayson Werth, whose groundout to second ended an 18-pitch frame and Bumgarner's third scoreless. 44 pitches overall for the Giants' lefty.

Bryce Harper K'd looking at an 0-2 slider to end a quick, nine-pitch fourth by Bumgarner, who was up to just 53 pitches total after four. The Nationals went down in order in a quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth that left Bumgarner at 64 pitches.

Denard Span singled to left to start the sixth, but three quick outs later he was stranded at first at the end of a 12-pitch frame. 76 pitches total for Bumgarner.

Ian Desmond sent a single through short for a leadoff hit off Bumgarner. Bryce Harper started up 3-0 in the next at bat and spit on a 3-1 breaking ball outside. Wilson Ramos bunted back to the mound, and Bumgarner tried to throw to third, but sent it by the bag. 2-0 Nationals when Desmond and Harper scored on the error. A single to left by Asdrubal Cabrera in the next at bat brought Ramos around, 3-0. Three outs later, Bumgarner escaped further damage. The 16-pitch frame left him at 92 pitches.

Madison Bumgarner's Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 92 P, 62 S, 6/4 GO/FO.

2. Turning Point(s): After struggling to score runs off Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson in the first two games of the NLDS, both of which they lost, of course, Nats' skipper Matt Williams was asked on Sunday what his team needed to change in order to keep the season alive with a win in Game 3 against Giants' lefty Madison Bumgarner.

"There's been some‑‑ both guys have pitched against us live down in the strike zone and below the strike zone. So the key is to be patient," Williams explained.

"I think that we have swung at some pitches that have been down and out of the strike zone, which has resulted in some early outs and not being able to string things together. So doesn't get any easier tomorrow for sure, so we have to get back to what we do and relax and go about our business.

"We have some history against Bumgarner and matched up here earlier in the season. So, you know, we have got to do a better job at‑bat certainly, getting good pitches to hit and being a little more patient."

It was hard to be patient with the lefty throwing strikes, however, and Bumgarner completed five quick scoreless frames on just 64 pitches. Bumgarner's 12-pitch sixth left him at 76 pitches.

An ill-advised attempt to cut Ian Desmond down at third in the seventh cost the Giants' lefty though.

Desmond singled, moved up on a walk by Bryce Harper and went for third on a bunt by Wilson Ramos.

Bumgarner's throw to third base got by Pablo Sandoval and rolled down into foul territory in left, far enough for both Desmond and Harper to score and make it 2-0.

Ramos then scored on an RBI single by Asdrubal Cabrera and the Nationals jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

1. The Wrap-Up: Jean Machi took over on the mound in the eighth and retired the Nationals in order.

Tyler Clippard took over for the Nationals in the bottom of the inning and retired the Giants in order on 11 pitches.

Bryce Harper crushed a 1-1 fastball from Jean Machi in the top of the ninth and sent his second home run of the series out to deep right field in AT&T. 4-0 D.C.

STOREN WARNING!!!!: Drew Storen came on in the non-save situation in the ninth. Pablo Sandoval dumped a leadoff single in short right. Hunter Pence doubled to left-center to send Sandoval around to third. Brandon Belt K'd looking at a 2-2 slider. ONE! Brandon Crawford's sac fly to right scored Sandoval, 4-1. That's as close as the Giants got. Travis Ishikawa's groundout to short ended it.

4-1 Nationals win.

Nationals trail 2-1 in NLDS.