Defeat in D.C. Nationals Outfielder Jayson Werth and the Nationals bench after the game (Washington Post Photo)
The outstanding season of the Washington Nationals came to a stunning end on shortly after midnight was the St Louis Cardinals overcame a 6-0 deficit to win 9-7. The Nationals had the best record in baseball with 98 regular season wins while the Cardinals had worked hard to secure the second Wild Card berth in the National League and had to defeat the Atlanta Braves to get into the NLDS.
The Nationals won the first game of the series in St Louis before having their pitching staff, which had been one of the best in baseball shelled in games two and three by the Cardinals. The Nationals had a walk off win in game four to tie the series and went into the game with ace Gino Gonzalez going up against Jonathan Wainwright of the Cardinals.
The loss was hard to watch. The Nationals scored three runs before the Cardinals got the first out of the 1st inning. By the end of the 3rd inning the lead was 6-0. The Cardinals who I expected to win the series looked like they were done. However Cardinals chipped away at the Nationals lead, scoring 1 in the 4th, 2 in the 5th and 1 in the 6th inning and at the end of seven innings the score was 6-4. They made it 6-5 in the top of the 8th when Daniel Descalso homered against Nationals set up man Tyler Clippard . The Nationals scored in the bottom half of the inning and went to the 9th leading 7-5 with ace closer Drew Storen on the hill.
Storen has been outstanding this year but got into trouble in the 9th. By the end of the inning the Cardinals had scored 4 runs to give them a 9-7 lead. The positive emotion of the crowd which had been building in anticipation of a victory that would send the Nationals into the NLDS hit a wall and the silence was deafening. The Nats could not score in the bottom half of the 9th and the Cardinals as they have so many times before won an elimination game. One only has to look at 2011 when the Cardinals spent the month of September playing elimination games before going on the win the World Series.
No one expected the Cardinals to achieve what they did after losing Albert Pujols and Manager Tony LaRussa. Rookie manager Mike Matheny was an unknown quantity and the Cardinals had to contend with a very strong NL Central. They will go on to face the Giants in the NLCS.
The Nationals have built a winning team. I chalk the series loss up to their inexperience in playoff baseball. They are a solid team that is also young. They are in a tremendous position to become a regular in post season play. One wonders if they had allowed Stephen Strasbourg to be on the playoff roster, if they might have one game two or three, or had him available to possibly stem the Cardinal tide in the 6th or 7th inning.
It was a terribly disappointing end to an amazing season for the Nationals and their fans. But I expect them to be back.