We’ve finally got some drama, thanks to the Dodgers and Nationals. Both ALDS matchups ended in sweeps, and the Cubs prevented the need for a winner-take-all Game 5 in their NLDS against the Giants with their dramatic comeback win in Game 4. The stakes couldn’t be higher for Washington and Los Angeles tonight, and here are the five players who must deliver:
He’s called this the biggest start of his life and career, and he’s right. Scherzer has tossed two no-hitters, has had a 20-strikeout game, has pitched in the World Series (2012 with the Tigers) and might add a second Cy Young Award next month. But now he has a chance to send the perpetually underachieving Nationals to the NLCS first time since moving to D.C. Scherzer, who has the benefit of full rest, has to be better than he was in Game 1 (four earned runs in six innings).
The prized deadline pickup has never pitched on short rest, but he will tonight. And if the free-agent-to-be needs further incentive after losing Game 2 (four earned runs in 4.1 innings), there’s the fact that he was released by the Nationals organization last June while pitching at Triple-A. Hill doesn’t have to go the distance but must keep it close before handing the ball to the Dodgers’ bullpen.
The reigning NL MVP has just three hits, one RBI and five strikeouts in this series. But here’s his chance to build a playoff legacy and erase the bad memories of a disappointing regular season. Harper was 1-for-2 with two K’s in Game 2 against Hill, but perhaps he picked up something in those at-bats. Homerless since Sept. 10, Harper needs to come up huge in this one.
The Dodgers’ best position player already has homered twice and doubled in this series, but those are his only hits (to go along with five K’s). The first of those blasts came off Scherzer in Game 1 and gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. Getting off to another quick start is imperative for Los Angeles, and Seager can make that possible.
The Nats’ hot-hitting second baseman picked up right where he left off last postseason, leading all players in this series with six RBI. Murphy also has walked three times and must continue to be an on-base machine. After homering three times in the NLDS last season, Murphy is looking for his first long ball in this series – and Game 5 would be a great time for it.