You can't predict the postseason. It's Nationals 4, Giants 1 in Game 3, as Madison Bumgarner and Doug Fister locked up in scoreless tie into the seventh. Five key moments:
1. Madison Bumgarner throws away Wilson Ramos' bunt.
Get fired up! #Nats lead, 3-0! #IBelieve #NothingButOctober pic.twitter.com/O2LzJkqHDB
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) October 6, 2014
Posey said he told Bum to throw to third. #sfgiants
— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) October 7, 2014
It was a great two-strike bunt by Ramos, who hadn't had a sacrifice bunt since 2011, in the seventh inning, but a bad decision by Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey to try for the lead runner at third base. Bumgarner threw it into the left-field bullpen as Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper scored on the play and the Nationals then added a third run in the inning.
According to Baseball-Reference.com data, Bumgarner fielded eight bunts this year and recorded just four outs. I'm not sure how many of those were sacrifice attempts or bunt-for-hit attempts, but it's possible he has a tendency to try to make this kind of play. (The sabermetricians will tell you to take the free out. Of course, they would also say not to bunt to begin with, but Ramos is a high double-play guy and with one run meaning a lot in a 0-0 game, I think the bunt made sense here.) One Giants on Twitter told me Bumgarner had some trouble throwing to second base this year. As a team, the Giants turned 76 percent of bunts into outs, just below the major league average of 77 percent.
Bumgarner said he made the throw in part because even if Desmond was safe he thought they still could have retired the slow-moving Ramos at first. That's a risky idea as well. Have to take the out there.
2. Doug Fister with seven shutout innings.
Doug Fister's postseason ERA: 2.60. Now seven straight quality postseason starts. His team is 5-1 in the past six starts entering today.
— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) October 6, 2014
Doug Fister's 1.77 postseason ERA as a starter is the lowest among active pitchers (minimum 5 starts)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 7, 2014
It seemed all the talk before the game centered on Bumgarner. I can see why, coming off that shutout in the wild-card game. But Fister actually entered with a lower career postseason ERA than Bumgarner's. That's not to say that it was predictive that Fister would have a big game, but since everyone was portraying Bumgarner as a "big game" pitcher, wasn't it fair to suggest the same of Fister?
His biggest out actually came against Bumgarner, the best hitting pitcher in baseball this season with a .258 average and four home runs, including two grand slams. With the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning after a single and two walks, Fister struck out Bumgarner on a 1-2 sinking fastball.
3. Harper's walk.
Before Ramos' bunt, Harper drew a crucial walk. He'd been rung up on a pitch that was outside in his previous at-bat (and seemed to have a few questionable strikes called against him in the 18-inning game), so give him credit for a patient at-bat as Bumgarner threw four sliders off the plate.
4. Harper's home run in the ninth.
.@Bharper3407 tees off and drills his 2nd home run of the #NLDS! It's 4-0 @Nationals in the 9th. pic.twitter.com/tM1k40BneC
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) October 6, 2014
5. Drew Storen pitches an uncomfortable ninth inning.
Fine line from "we can't trust Drew Storen in the postseason" to "Drew Storen is still our guy". One more hit changes everything.
— CJ Nitkowski (@CJNitkowski) October 7, 2014
When Pablo Sandoval singled and Hunter Pence doubled to begin the ninth, AT&T Park started rocking and Nationals fans had flashbacks to Game 2 and to Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. When Storen fell behind 2-0 to Brandon Belt, things were suddenly very interesting. Belt lined a 2-0 fastball foul and then Storen froze him with a 2-2 slider. He got the final two outs to finish off the game, but the Nationals have to be nervous about the state of mind of a closer who has had trouble closing out postseason games.