Credit the Nats where it’s due: they took a lost season and are still playing into mid-October. To keep playing, they’ll need both Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg to dominate the next two games — not to say they can’t, but it’s a tall task with these Dodgers. They shouldn’t have to, though — since last offseason, the Nationals have tried to take other team’s scraps at a bargain bin price and mold them into a formidable bullpen. It’s clear that their lack of reliable arms will, ultimately, do them in — if not in this series, then certainly in the next one, when Scherzer and Strasburg can’t come out every night.
In short: it’ll take a minor miracle to extend the season past tonight or perhaps Wednesday night. To extend it past the next series would take something beyond that.
Here, for what may be the last time this season, is the scoop from South Capitol Street:
After Game 3 haymaker, the Nationals need more punch to stay in the fight (WaPo)
The Nats will have their best arm—in terms of raw ability—on the mound come this evening. They'll have Stephen Strasburg ready for a hypothetical game 5. Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle are hypothetically ready to go as well. But for any of that to mean anything, Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon—who, apparently, is sick—have to step up from their end-of-season slumps.
The Nationals’ bullpen moves in Game 3 were a disaster. That doesn’t mean they were wrong. (WaPo)
Davey Martinez made the absolute right decision in bringing in Patrick Corbin for the sixth inning. It also blew up in his face, as Patrick Corbin simply couldn't find an out pitch to save his life. Buried in here: Stephen Strasburg may well come out of the 'pen tonight if the moment arises. (Also note that Aníbal Sánchez has a .923 OPS against the third time through the lineup.)
To save their season, the Nationals turn to Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. They need perfection. (The Athletic)
The Nats turned their season around on May 24th. On October 7th, they'll need to do it again — and they'll need Max Scherzer to show up for them in an elimination game. They need him to go seven innings, and then for Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle to slam the door. It's not an easy task, but that's what it'll take.
Big 3? Nats' rotation boasts Big 4 with Aníbal (MLB.com)
Say what you will about the nomenclature surrounding the rotation this season, but Aníbal Sánchez's dominant performance over 5 innings made it very clear that the big three was truly a big four.
Max Scherzer to start elimination game vs. Dodgers (MLB.com)
For the second time this month, the Nats will throw Max Scherzer in a win-or-go-home game. They've been here before, with their backs against the wall — but this will certainly present the starkest challenge thus far.
Howie Kendrick baserunning mistake Game 3 (MLB.com)
Asdrubal Cabrera lofted a fly ball to right. Howie Kendrick tagged up. Then he hesitated. Then he ran again, and ran into an out. The rally was dead, and Kendrick's ever-painful NLDS only got worse.
Nats broadcaster Bob Carpenter on pivotal team parties, retirement, Tony La Russa and skipping scorecards (The Athletic)
A long Q+A with Carp, in case you want something less heart-wrenching for your morning read.
Posnanski: The Nationals’ ‘gutsy’ intentional walk was an astonishing act (The Athletic)
"When they did that, Twitter did blow up a little. But honestly, I don’t think it blew up enough. This was an astonishing act of self-destruction. Intentionally walk a mercurial home run hitter to put the tying run on base in the ninth inning? Are you kidding me?"
90 Feet of Momentum: Assessing the what-ifs on a key Nationals gaffe (The Athletic)
“He was trying to be overly aggressive,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He started and stopped and started again. For me, if he had went right away, he makes it. Once you stop, you got to get back. He knew that. He’s a veteran guy.”
With no moves left, Davey Martinez gambles on his starters in relief, again – and loses (The Athletic)
There's almost nobody left in the bullpen to trust, so the Nats are whitewater rafting in the late innings — and their raft flipped on Sunday night.
Dodgers torch Nationals starter Patrick Corbin in NLDS relief outing (ESPN)
Sometimes, when the Nats bring in starters as relievers, they dominate. Think Jordan Zimmermann, 2012; Max Scherzer, 2019. Other times, uh, things fall apart. Think, well, last night; Scherzer, 2017; Edwin Jackson, 2012.
Victor Robles' MRI reveals mild right hamstring strain (MASN)
The strain is "very, very" mild. If it's mild enough to get Robles on the field for Thursday's do-or-die game, well, that's another question.
Scherzer: Holding back for Game 4 "probably the best thing" (MASN)
Max will see what an extra day adds to his performance, mainly in terms of how many pitches he can give the team. The key will be him going seven or more innings; anything less, and the Nats will likely see their season end tonight.
After seven-run sixth, Nationals' season on brink (MASN)
At the exact wrong moment, Patrick Corbin's slider lost its bite, Brian Dozier was shaded the wrong way, and six Dodgers crossed the plate.
Even Nationals’ starters faltering out of bullpen (NBC Sports)
"It seems that even Nationals starters aren’t immune to the disease that seems to be pitching out of their bullpen. After a seven-run sixth inning, the Dodgers look poised to take a 2-1 series lead in the NLDS. The Nationals will need to have a big turnaround to avoid being pushed out of the Division Series for the fifth time in as many tries since 2012."
Nationals lose Game 3 to Dodgers, 10-4 (WaPo)
The Nats needed 12 outs to make Thursday an elimination game in the right direction; to put the Dodgers on watch. Instead, the Nats may watch their season end tonight because of Patrick Corbin's mid-game meltdown.
Patrick Corbin, Nationals fall to Dodgers in Game 3 (MLB.com)
"I trust Pat,” Martinez said. “He's been unbelievable all year. And I would do it again. I really would. He was the guy. I just feel bad for him because he went out there, gave us everything he had.”
Corbin on how Dodgers feasted on his normally elusive slider (MASN)
Corbin added: “It just stinks. I feel like I let these guys down. They did a great job scoring, getting the lead early, and Sánchez pitched a heck of a game. So it’s tough.”