Nationals fans came to the park looking for a reason to explode in the deciding Game Five of the National League Division Series. In the early innings, it looked like they’d get their wish. Baseball can be a cruel beast, though, as the Nats saw a once commanding lead disappear, and their season ended in heartbreaking, cruel, and disappointing fashion.
Early on, Gio Gonzalez showed why he’s a leading Cy Young Award contender. He shut down the Cardinals in the early innings and showed why he’s been the Nats best pitcher this season. The offense got on board early, too, to help his cause.
Jayson Werth doubled down the left field line, which Bryce Harper followed up with a triple. Ryan Zimmerman came in, calm, cool, and collected, and drove a two-run home run to the right field seats. It gave the Nats an early three run lead, but they weren’t done yet.
In the bottom of the third, Harper massacred a baseball to the right center field seats for his first postseason blast and just the second postseason home run by a teenager in baseball history. Michael Morse followed up with a home run into the Cardinals bullpen, scoring Ryan Zimmerman. The Nats had a six run lead, and it looked like they were headed to their first franchise NLCS birth since 1981.
But it was not to be. The Cardinals chipped away at Gio Gonzalez in the fourth and fifth innings, and they cut the Nats lead in half. The bullpen once again didn’t help the Nats cause, and besides their stellar performance in game four, it was one of the main factors for the team's demise. Edwin Jackson, Tyler Clippard, and Drew Storen all gave up runs as the defending World Series champs made the Nats lead erode, slowly but surely.
Storen gave up four runs in that harrowing ninth inning as the atmosphere at Nats Park quickly went from elation to devastation. Storen had the Cardinals down to their last strike twice, once in a 2-2 count and the other in a 1-2 count, and he walked both batters. Those batters ended up making the difference in the Nats 9-7 loss. The Nats closer just couldn’t throw strikes, and it cost them the game. It’s certainly not entirely Storen’s fault, but he had a two-run lead with three outs to get. He couldn’t do it.
There is no way to aptly describe the hurt on Davey Johnson’s face during his post-game press conference. “I’m sorry,” Davey said to the fans that stuck by the team all season. “We’ll make it up to them next year.” You could almost hear the lump in the manager’s throat as he said it. He meant it, and as bad as fans feel, I’m not sure there’s a way to appropriately describe the hurt the players and coaches feel.
As fans, we’ll feel this hurt for a while, too. There was so much anticipation and expection about this postseason, and it feels like we were robbed. This is just a somber reminder that there are no guarantees in baseball. We’ll be with you all offseason, recapping this season that will be remembered for years to come, and preparing for the 2013 campaign. Thank you for sharing in our dedication to the Washington Nationals this season. It’ll be a tough offseason, but we’ll make it through together.
It was a hard game to watch - nail-biting and heartbreaking. After our early explosion the lead slowly slipped away - and for the first time this season I was not comfortable when Drew Storen took the mound with a two run lead. I had a sense of foreboding, and no matter how hard we all pleaded with him, he just could not get that last strike. As I was leaving the park, I passed a street vendor trying to sell "NL East Division Champion" hats. He was pleading with the dejected crowd: "They're still the Division Champs!" I stopped, went back to him, and bought hats for Lorry and myself. Maybe we ran out of gas in October, but that does not change the fact that this team won 100 games since Opening Day and gave us a boatload of wonderful memories. Not too shabby for what is still a young and improving team. I would have loved to have lasted longer in the playoffs, but the record book will always show that the Nationals were Division Champs. And pennants (even Division pennants) fly forever.
Great article. Being the wife of the biggest Nats fan I know, I felt that heartbreak last night watching the game and can only imagine how that team must feel.
I don't hold anything against you personally when I say this, (I just discovered this blog a few hours ago in fact) but I honestly don't see how people can continue to be a fan of this mess of a team. And before you ask, until 4 hours ago I myself WAS a fan of this team.In fact, it was the Nationals unlikely climb this year to the top of the regular season that made me a fan of baseball itself again. I hadn't watched in 16 years, really. But after the terrible final month, (and the sickening final 5 minutes) of the season, I can't see myself spending another moment, another dollar, another thought on this group.It isn't that a team loses. It's HOW they lose. And all throughout this postseason this team showed little heart, and even less brain, when it most counted. They didn't get beaten tonight, (or in the other absurd games of this NLDS), they give the game away for free by displaying Carolina League antics, especially on the mound. When you can't put a team away in a game like this with one one strike away (TWICE!) it isn't about the opponent and it isn't about the talent. It is, as I said, about the heart and the brain. Maybe the Strasburg thing was a bad idea, maybe it wasn't. Frankly, I am tired of the issue, though I do think it was in the end, stupid. But being unable to hold on to a 6 run lead in the most important game of the year is beyond a bad idea. It's not because of bad ideas. It's because of stupidity, weakness, and laziness. Those are the reasons I gave up on this team tonight.A few things that came in second place as top reasons for throwing my Nats shirt literally in the trash can tonight:-Alleged Cy Young award contender Gio Gonzalez, a hero for most of the year being unable to hit the side of a barn with a baseball during not one but two post season starts. The games of his career, and he sucked. Straight up sucked. Best record in baseball for pitchers, and you throw like that?-The inexplicable decision on the part of Davey Johnson, (who also for a time seemed to be a hero) to let Gio in the game long after it was clear he has lost control of the ball. (Again).-The equally inexplicable decision to bring in Edwin Jackson as a reliever, when the last not one but TWO times he has been on the mount he has had his testicles handed to him. He is a free agent, and if I cared anymore, I'd hope he'd leave the team. He is a terrible pitcher. 2/3, 2 walks, one run?- Tyler Clippard giving up a home run in the 8th. With the exception of Game 4, Clippard has done the Nats ZERO good and much harm since about the end of August.-Drew Storen being unable to do the very thing that defines his job as a closer. Twice.-The complete LACK of offense, (Desmond excepted) in the NLDS until the second inning tonight...and even then it vanished into the abyss it came from after the 3rd inning. -The fact that Danny Espinoza was permitted to start for the team, despite being the worst player on the team and one of the worst in Major League Baseball. Again, it's not that a team loses. It's how they lose. Because of the way they lost, inspiration of thousands of people was crushed. I am not buying into how proud I should be that this team got so far, or how grateful I should be that they gave us such a "wonderful" magical season. Team get that sort of credit when they don't fall on their own swords in front of 45,000 people, in the first playoff presence in their city in 79 years. Better they have finished with the third best record in baseball, or got to a wild card and perhaps lost, but did so with both heart and brains, then to get within one mediocre pitch of the NLCS, and blow it because they got there on fumes.The former, I could have come back from, and been proud of. Pleasantly surprised by. The latter, (and the sad reality of the Nationals season) is just disgusting, and inspires nothing in me to come back. And you know what? I get the feelings tens of thousands of Washingtonians are going to feel exactly the same way...and the fan base the team struggled so hard to built at last this year, will vanish into the wind next year. Just like a 6 run lead.