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Wire Taps: Will Nationals really upset Dodgers?; Stephen Strasburg’s October chance; Revisiting 2016’s Game 5

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Oh, good, another game 5. This should end well. If you want to increase your heart rate, here are some links from the last 24 hours in Los Angeles...

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Alright. Instead of trying to come up with some explanation for a potential miracle tonight or ruminating on why this Game 5 will be different (i.e., the definition of insanity), let’s review the last two morning-of-Game 5 Wire Taps intros:

2016:

“Alright. On the less-bright side, win-or-go-home games are really, really scary. On the brighter side, there’s pretty much zero chance that this Game 5 goes worse than the last Game 5 did.”

2017:

Alright, so here we are again... I’m here to remind you that this series has continued to belong to the team able to score just enough. So, yet again: If the Nats don’t hit, they don’t win. Hitting is what matters for this team tonight, end of story (although some good pitching wouldn’t hurt). Now, for what could be the last time this year, here’s the news from Nationals Park.”

In truth, it’s hard to really know what to predict from today — it could come down to the pitching, it could come down to the bullpen, it could come down to the L.A. smog. Obviously, there’s a repeated editorialized prediction throughout these links that will become apparent, but if these Game 5s have taught us anything, there’s no real sense in trying to predict what mayhem will occur. That said... it is the Nats in a Game 5.

So, for what may well be the last time this season: Here’s the latest from Los Angeles:

In this Game 5, the Nationals can embrace possibility, not fear failure (WaPo)
Game 5 after Game 5, the Nats have entered with dread, the question of what could go wrong to prevent them from advancing to the NLCS, as they were supposed to. This year, they're the definitive underdogs, the team that may well undermine the Dodgers, who should win tonight by almost all means. Of course, if things fall apart (which, to be fair, they won't), then that expectation will only weigh heavier on Dodger Stadium. Also worth noting: the Nats aren't starting Gio Gonzalez this time, which does mean something.

Juan Soto vs. Adam Kolarek NLDS matchup (MLB.com)
Adam Kolarek has had one job all postseason: get Juan Soto out. So far, he's done that three times with a perfect rate of success — but hey, Soto will get him at some point, right?

Ryan Zimmerman not done delivering big moments for Nats (MASN)
"“There’s been a lot of people that think these are my last games,” Zimmerman began, before Scherzer interrupted with his own snarky take on the situation. “I really don’t think these are his last games,” the right-hander said. “All of you think it’s his last games.”"

Inside the four Nationals’ at-bats that keyed Ryan Zimmerman’s homer (WaPo)
The Nats, with a single, a bunt, and another pair of singles, put on the offensive show that defined their season since June 1st — and then Ryan Zimmerman cashed in all the chips.

If you didn’t think the Nationals were going to force a Game 5, then you probably don’t know this team (The Athletic)
"There was no way that a team, which bounced back from a 19-31 hole on May 24, was going to drift quietly into the offseason."

Evaluating The 200MM Contracts: Pitchers (MLBTR)
"Scherzer, who has been an All-Star every year and won a pair of NL Cy Youngs since then, remains among the game’s most imposing hurlers to this day. The 35-year-old’s fresh off yet another tremendous (albeit injury-limited) regular season and has been a key figure in what could be a stunning first-round playoff upset of the juggernaut Dodgers."

Nationals, Dodgers keys to 2019 NLDS win (MLB.com)
The winner tonight will have a starter who goes deep into the game, though the Dodgers will certainly have a deeper arsenal in their bullpen. Also, both teams have had different types of postseason heartbreak over the last few years, so the pressure is on for both sides.

Luis Garcia discusses Fall League development (MLB.com)
Luis Garcia, 19 years old and the number 2 prospect in the Nationals' organization, is currently churning away in Arizona for the Fall League. The Nats consider him on the fast track, and if things fall apart tonight, comfort yourself with thoughts of him.

Nationals-Dodgers NLDS Game 5 history (MLB.com)
In case you feel like stabbing yourself in the heart and wanting to take out your own eyeballs, you can relive Bobby Henley's send of Jayson Werth, Joc Pederson's home run, Shawn Kelley's meltdown, Chris Heisey's response, and the winning run left on first base.

Strasburg rewriting script this postseason (MLB.com)
If Stephen Strasburg somehow, miraculously, incomprehensibly carries the Nationals to a win tonight, he'll only add to his stellar October resumé. Alternatively, things may well fall apart in what could be his last start in a Nationals uniform.

Zimmerman, Nationals Ward Off Specter Of Doom, Force Game 5 (Fangraphs)
"But there [Zimmerman] was on Monday, 15 seasons into a beloved career in Washington, hitting the bejesus out of a ball just the way he did when he was a young man, playing on 100-loss teams in front of fans still learning how to love their weird new team. They sure didn’t look great, but the mere presence of this young stud third baseman suggested maybe they’d eventually be okay. All those years ago, Zimmerman became Their Guy. On Monday, he showed why he still is."

Once Baseball’s Top Prospect, Stephen Strasburg Is on the Verge of Securing His Legacy (WSJ)
The legend of Strasburg was outsized before he threw a professional pitch; over the years, it's been hard for him to reach those impossible expectations on a nightly basis. But if he gets it done tonight (ed. note: a bold, bold assumption), his legacy may well reach as close as it could get to the unrealistic thoughts from 2010.

Los Angeles Dodgers face worst-case scenario -- Stephen Strasburg in do-or-die Game 5 (ESPN)
"Major League Baseball's postseason is the scorpion-and-frog parable come to life. In an ideal playoff for the league, the best teams -- that is, those whose 162-game excellence lent credence to the importance of the regular season and proved a superior level of talent and execution -- would advance. It is against MLB's interest for the Dodgers, a star brand in the country's second-biggest media market, to lose. The playoffs don't care. This is their nature."

NLDS: The Nationals forced Game Five without a functioning bullpen (BtBS)
The Nats are one game away from the NLCS (which is a funny joke to tell in a DC bar), but don't let that fool you: they do not have a functional bullpen in any sense of either word. They scratched and clawed their way here, using their rotation as their bullpen and their bullpen as a place to leave a group of relievers they will do everything they can to not consider tonight.

Alex Ovechkin, Ryan Zimmerman stole the show at Nats Park (WaPo)
It's D.C. sports' favorite bromance, two guys who came around in the mid-00's, raised families in the DMV, and are now the elder statesmen of the sports scene around here. On Monday, they both had an exciting night — Zimmerman, granted, more so than Ovechkin.

Trea Turner started Nationals' Game 4 rally (WaPo)
Turner, who went 3-for-5 on Monday with two runs scored, was the engine the Nats' offense needed him to be on Monday, letting Anthony Rendon knock him in and putting some pressure on the Dodgers. That's how their offense operated all year, and for it to work tonight, the Nats will need Trea to set the table for Adam Eaton and company.