When Dusty Baker told reporters on Friday night that Jose Lobaton would likely start Game 2 of the NLDS with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he cited Lobaton’s history with left-handed starter Rich Hill as part of the thinking as Washington tried to mix and match to make up for the loss of Wilson Ramos to an ACL injury late in the season.
“Lobi, I think, is 3-for-3 off of Hill, so we'll probably go that way tomorrow,” Baker said.
Surely that wasn’t the only reason, considering those at bats came back in 2012-13, and considering Lobaton struggled against left-handers in limited at bats this season, going 1 for 15, but it was the only information the Nationals’ skipper shared to explain the decision to go with Lobaton over Pedro Severino, who hit lefties well at Triple-A this season and got the start in Game 1 because a left-hander, Clayton Kershaw, was on the mound.
Lobaton was 1 for 16 vs lefties this season after he grounded into a double play in his first at bat against Hill this afternoon, ending a bases-loaded, one-out threat by rolling into an inning-ending 1-2-3 in the second.
In the top of the third, Lobaton dropped a throw to plate too, with the run that scored on the play putting the Dodgers up, 2-0.
When he stepped up for the second time, however, Lobaton got hold of a 1-1 curve up in the zone and hit a three-run home run to left field, through a stiff wind blowing in to put Washington up, 3-2 in what ended up a 5-2 win that evened up the NLDS.
Lobaton was surprised as anyone that it went out, after watching the wind knock down a few fly balls to left.
“I remember the inning before, I was talking to the umpire, I was telling him the same, like you know, ‘Wow, that wind is really bad for hitters now.’
“And then when I hit the ball, I was like, I think I hit it really good, just I don’t know if it’s going to go out. And then when it went out, I was like, ‘Wow!’, that’s pretty cool.”
“A couple guys in the dugout are like, ‘Wow, maybe that moment wasn’t that windy.’
“Maybe that moment it just stopped and gave me something extra.”
“I thought somebody was going to have to do something spect to get it through that [wind],” Daniel Murphy told reporters, after he went 3 for 3, driving in the other two runs the Nationals scored, “and [Lobaton] did. I mean, he hammered that ball.”
Dusty Baker was shocked it went out as well.
“I didn’t think anybody could hit a home run out to left field today,” Baker said. “The way that wind was blowing everything back. I mean, he had to hit it a ton.
“And sounded great off the bat. Then we saw it kept going and going, and then he’s trying to read the outfielders, if he has a beat on it or not; that when he stopped, looked like he was going to catch it but the ball went over the fence. That was a big home run, especially the way Rich Hill was dealing against us.
“But Lobi had some success against Rich Hill in the past, and boy, that just erupted the stadium. Man that was huge.”
Murphy said it relieved some of the pressure the Nationals were feeling at that point, after losing Game 1 and falling behind early today.
“I can’t speak to how big it is, because we’re down all day in Game 1, [Corey Seager], again today gets us in the first inning to give them a 1-0 lead, and then for [Lobaton] to get that blast right there and puts us out in front, it gave us the chance to extend the lead and is the first time we were able to play from in front instead of behind them.”
Hill had tossed three scoreless to that point, striking out seven. He ended up giving up four runs in 4 1⁄3 innings.
“I thought Rich had good stuff,” Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts said.
“And the breaking ball was good, fastball life was good. Just you look back at that inning, and he hit [Danny Espinosa] with a cutter and with two outs, and then you bring Lobaton to the plate and was just a breaking ball that he left up and [Lobaton] put a good swing on it.”
“It’s one of those things, you throw 87 pitches, and he left one of them up.”
Roberts too, was surprised to see Lobaton’s blast soar out of the field of play.
“You know, the wind was blowing in, and you’ve really got to click it to get it out. It was an elevated breaking ball, and again, he put a good swing on it.”
The win tied things up in the NLDS and now it’s off to Los Angeles, where the teams play Game 3 at 4:00 PM EDT tomorrow in Dodger Stadium.
Will Lobaton be back behind the plate? “He’ll probably be starting against Kenta Maeda catching Gio [Gonzalez] tomorrow,” Baker said. “Boy, just keep it coming.”
• We talked about the Nationals’ win, Jose Lobaton’s big blast and more on Nats Nightly: