The Associated Press
Geoff Burke / USA TODAY Sports
WASHINGTON – Jose Lobaton got the chance to play in the postseason because of a teammate’s late-September injury and, boy, did the little-used backup catcher make the most of it.
Lobaton hit a three-run homer, Daniel Murphy provided more-expected production by driving in a pair of insurance runs, and Washington’s bullpen threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings Sunday, leading the Nationals past the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-2 in a rain-postponed Game 2 to even their NL Division Series at 1-all.
The Nationals trailed 2-0 in the fourth when No. 8 hitter Lobaton put them ahead for good by connecting off a curveball from Rich Hill after the Dodgers left-hander walked Murphy and hit a batter.
Hard to see this coming: Lobaton did not do much at the plate in 2016, batting .232 in only 99 at-bats overall, including 1 for 15 against lefties. Then again, that lone hit was also a homer, and also against the Dodgers – off Scott Kazmir in July.
Lobaton didn’t even start the playoff opener, in fact. He sat behind rookie Pedro Severino, who had played all of 18 games in the majors.
Murphy, in contrast, has been Washington’s best hitter all season, considered a top contender for league MVP honors. Indeed, fans chanted those three letters after each hit as he went 3 for 3, including RBI singles in the fifth and seventh.
The Dodgers had gone ahead on Corey Seager’s second first-inning homer of the series and Josh Reddick’s run-scoring single in the third on a play at home in which Lobaton couldn’t hold onto Bryce Harper’s throw home from right. Both runs came against Tanner Roark, who lasted 4 1/3 innings.
Five Nationals relievers did the rest, with Mark Melancon working around a single in the ninth – the lone hit allowed by the hosts’ bullpen – to earn the save. Blake Treinen went 1 1/3 innings and got the win.