WASHINGTON, D.C.: Dusty Baker talked after last night’s 3-0 loss in the NLDS opener with the Chicago Cubs about the fact that he didn’t go to a left-hander against Anthony Rizzo with two down and a runner on third base in the eighth inning. It was already 2-0 at that point, when the Cubs’ hard-hitting first baseman added a run with an RBI double to left field off of Ryan Madson, on a 96 mph 2-2 fastball he hit the other way.
Did Baker think about going to a lefty there?
“No, and he had him, like I said, two strikes,” Baker explained. “You can look back and say, how come we [didn’t use] a lefty? But a lefty -- you know, [Madson’s] not bad against lefties, either. Madson's been good against lefties. You have to go with what you know and go with a guy's track record.”
Madson held left-handed hitters to a .204/.240/.265 line on the season in 2017, and Rizzo had fairly even splits vs left and right-handed pitchers (.260/.374/.507 vs left-handers and .277/.398/.507 with significantly better power numbers vs RHPs).
“You know, [Rizzo] did a good piece of hitting,” Baker said. “He fought off a fastball and hit it to the left. You know, it's easy to say after, you know, the fact, that you could have gone to a lefty, but you know -- and if he doesn't do that, if he doesn't get him out, you've got [Willson] Contreras up, who has been swinging actually better than Rizzo.
“Contreras, he's like hitting .370 or something like that with men in scoring position and two outs. You know, you play the odds, and then we got bit by the odds. And then Rizzo is hitting .230 or something like that with runners in scoring position and two outs. We had two strikes on Rizzo twice, and they got three two-out hits and we didn't score.”
[ed. note - “Fact Check: Contreras put up a .378/.500/.784 line with two-outs and RISP, though Baker was close, considering he was speaking extemporaneously, and Rizzo put actually up a .231/.444/.500 line with two down and runners in scoring position, so he was close on both.”]
In the end though, as Baker noted, that third run, while providing insurance, didn’t win the game for the Cubs.
“I mean, it's kind of a moot point when you don't score,” he said.
Washington’s hitters managed just two hits total, both off Kyle Hendricks, and came up empty against Chicago’s bullpen.
What was Hendricks doing that made him so effective? Or were the Nats’ hitters to blame?
“Well it was a combination of both but you can't take anything away from him because he threw the ball well,” Baker explained.
“He mixed it up. He threw changeups in fastball counts, threw high fastballs. He used all quadrants tonight. You know, he can pitch.
“And it's just evident, I mean, we only got two hits and we didn't hit the ball that hard off of him. Yeah, he threw a good game tonight.”
“He was tricking us tonight,” the Nats’ skipper added, “and seemed like those kind of guys give us more trouble than guys who throw hard.”
Baker was asked about Bryce Harper, who connected for one of the Nationals’ two hits off Hendricks, and went 1 for 4 overall on the night, and how big a factor the 24-year-old heating up could be for the Nats going forward, though after returning from the DL late this season, his timing is still not quite there.
“Yeah, the longer we play, the closer Bryce is going to get,” Baker said.
“But you've got to put him out there, and you hope that, you know, the surrounding cast of guys, you know, comes through, and then we can play longer and longer and longer and longer, and the same for him and the same for Jayson Werth.”
Werth went 0 for 3 with a walk and a K in the series opener.
The Nationals, as a team, went 0 for 2 with RISP, and six total runners left on base.
“We just couldn't muster up too much offense tonight,” Baker said. “We'll be better tomorrow.