Hello, my friends. I know I haven’t posted in a while, but I was so caught up in the baseball playoffs that I wasn’t sure what to write about – the surprising Oakland A’s, the feisty Orioles, the Strasburg-less Nationals… But as a true Nationals fan, I have to accept what happened Friday night, and I’m hoping that by writing about it, I can move on and look forward to next year’s baseball season.
The Nationals went into the post-season with the best record in baseball – 98 wins that surprised many skeptics who had said that the Nationals were too young, too inexperienced, and relied too much on their pitching. But regular-season records and statistics are erased come October, when everyone starts with a clean slate (including major-league-leading 21-game winner, Gio Gonzalez, who was less than stellar in his two post-season starts).
In game 1 of the National League Division Series (NLDS), the Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals by a score of 3-2. This despite Bryce Harper going 0-5, Gonzalez walking 7 batters in 5 innings, and 10 runners left on base. It was Tyler Moore’s 2-run single in the 8th inning that made the difference, and it was all the Nats needed to squeak by the Cards, who also didn’t play particularly well on that day.
In the second game, the Cards won by a score of 12-4, thanks to two home runs by outfielder Carlos Beltrán. The Nats left 9 runners on base that night – again, a game they did not play very well.
For game 3, the Nationals came home to DC but still lost 8-0. The Cardinals had 14 hits, and their starter, Chris Carpenter, pitched 5 2/3 innings very well despite having missed most of the regular season with injuries. This time, the Nationals left 11 players on base (are you sensing a pattern here with the LOB?). For sure, the Nationals were playing so lousy that they were certain to be eliminated in game 4.
However, in game 4, after Jordan Zimmermann and Tyler Clippard each struck out their 3 batters in relief, Jayson Werth hit a towering home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Nationals a 3-1 win. It was one of those moments you’ll never forget, whether you were one of the lucky 45,000 fans to be at Nationals Park that night or whether you were watching at home. It’s right up there with Kirk Gibson’s home run in the NLCS back in 1988 and Curt Schilling’s bloody sock in the 2004 postseason. The Nationals were still alive, and all of a sudden everyone thought they could beat the Cardinals in game 5 and move on to face the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS.
But as memorable as game 4 was because of Werth’s home run, game 5 will go down in Nationals infamy as the biggest heartbreak in the team’s short history. In the top of the ninth inning, with the Nationals leading 7-5 and one more out to go before they could clinch their division, Nationals’ closer, Drew Storen, loaded the bases. Then the Cardinals’ Daniel Descalso ripped a two-run single off the glove of shortstop Ian Desmond, bringing in two runs to tie the game. Pete Kozma then followed with a two-run single to right, and before you knew it, the Nationals trailed by two.
The Nationals were unable to get on base in the bottom of the ninth, so just like that, the Cardinals move on to the NLCS. It was a stunning and crushing loss, and some of us still can’t believe that the team that we supported all season is all done for the year.
So now what? With both the Orioles and the Nationals being eliminated on the same day, what are DC/Baltimore fans supposed to do now? Well I, for one, am going to root for the Detroit Tigers (though I seldom root for an American League team). I’m going to keep watching the next 2 weeks of baseball, and I’m going to look forward to next year, when my husband and I can buy another five-game ticket plan, pitching ace Stephen Strasburg will hopefully be able to pitch for a full season, and most of the players in the Nationals team will be returning next year. Their fans will still be here (including the new ones who joined the bandwagon this season); wearing our Nationals jerseys with pride and showing off our NATTITUDE.