NLDS notebook: Baker defends Murphy's unsuccessful dash to second

Nationals manager Dusty Baker was his usual aggressive self in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. The Nats pulled off a successful double steal, setting the stage for Anthony Rendon's two-run single in the third inning, but an unsuccessful theft attempt by Daniel Murphy in the seventh cost the Nats a scoring opportunity in a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers.

With one out, Murphy drew a walk off Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez. With Rendon, who had already singled twice, at the plate, Murphy took off for second base and was thrown out by catcher Yasmani Grandal, who fist pumped at his good fortune. Rendon popped out to short to end the inning.

While Baker likes to press the issue and force opponents to make mistakes, Murphy seemed like an unusual candidate for a dash to second, given the situation and the fact that he was in his first game back after an injury. The second baseman was starting for the first time since Sept. 17 after missing time with a strained buttocks muscle. Murphy had five swipes during the regular season, but was caught three times.

dusty-baker-nlds-presser.jpg"Our guys have the green light if they think a guy is slow to the plate, which Baez is," Baker said. "I guess the leg felt better, you know, than I imagined because he's running pretty good on that ball."

But even Baker was caught off guard by Murphy taking off.

"I was surprised, but like I said we got the stopwatch on those guys, and he's being aggressive and he thought he had a chance to steal the base," Baker said.

After making the third out, Rendon was met by first base coach Davey Lopes, leading some in the press box to believe that Rendon missed a sign on a hit and run. But Baker said there was no missed sign, only a missed opportunity.

"If you're going to run, you're going to get caught stealing sometimes," he said. "Like I said in the past, that's why it's called stealing. And you're going to get caught sometime."

HEY, WHO'S LEFT?: Baker's NLDS roster carried a six-man bench, and he used every one of them. In fact, if the Nats had tied the game and gone to extra innings, they would have had no reserve field players left and could have been forced to use a starting pitcher as a pinch-hitter.

During one stretch in the eighth, Baker used three consecutive pinch-hitters.

OFF THE SCHNEID: Pinch-hitter Clint Robinson's double in the eighth ended a long streak of extra-base futility for one of the Nats' most consistent bats off the bench. Robinson hadn't had an extra-base hit since homering on July 8. He was 26-for-103 in the second half, but all of his hits were singles.

PITCHING IN: When ex-Nationals pitcher Livan Hernandez was unable to fulfill his scheduled ceremonial first pitch after being unable to depart Florida because of Hurricane Matthew, the Nats needed to find a replacement.

Injured catcher Wilson Ramos answered the call. And the crowd loved it.

Ramos, in the midst of a career year with a .307/.354/.496 slash line with career highs of 22 homers and 80 RBIs, sustained a season-ending torn ACL in a Sept. 26 loss to the Diamondbacks.

When he hobbled from the dugout in full uniform during pregame introductions, the sellout crowd at Nationals Park roared its approval. But when he walked slowly to the mound for first pitch duties - accompanied by the traditional Phish "Wil-son" chant - the ballpark rocked loudly.

"Oh, it was great," Baker said. "We had not seen him in a couple days and all of a sudden, he showed up. ... We're all happy to see him and the fans are happy to see him. ... He brought a lot of life to the stadium. There's a lot of love going around for Wilson. So I'm hoping he comes back tomorrow."

Ramos has delayed his ACL surgery so he can be with the Nats in the postseason.

Before Game 2, former Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche is scheduled to make the ceremonial first pitch to his son, Drake.

BY THE NUMBERS: First pitch was at 5:38 p.m. and the game lasted 3 hours, 46 minutes. Attendance was 43,915, a sellout. ... Jayson Werth went 1-for-4 and how has 48 career hits in the postseason, the most among Nationals players and 10th-most among active major leaguers.

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