Nationals’ Playoff Dreams are Spoiled Again

Jimmy Sanderson, sports editor

If you didn’t watch game five in the NLDS between the Washington Nationals and the Chicago Cubs, then you missed a game that will be remembered as one of the wildest elimination games in MLB history.

Of course, the Washington Nationals were not able to advance, as they lost 9-8 in an elimination game at home. History repeats itself yet again.

How did they lose this time?  Errors? Blown calls? Bad managing? There are a ton of ways to answer this question, because in this game, everything that you could imagine happening happened.

Let’s just start from the beginning of what ended up being the longest 9-inning game in postseason history:

  • The Nationals jumped out to an early 4-1 in the 2nd inning, highlighted by a solo shot by Daniel Murphy, followed by a three-run home run by Michael A. Taylor.
  • The following inning, the Cubs scored two runs to cut the deficit to one, one of the runs being scored on a wild pitch by Gio Gonzalez. Still, the Nationals have a lead, and there’s reason for hope throughout the rest of the game after two electrifying home runs

Now let’s get crazy.

  • Before the fifth inning even starts, the crowd is roaring. Max Scherzer, a fan favorite player and arguably the best pitcher in the league, runs out of the bullpen to relieve Gonzalez. Fans immediately predict multiple shutout innings from Mad Max, leading the Nationals to their first postseason series win in club history. As the inning continues, Scherzer retires the first two batters he faces, with one batter left to get out. Everything is going as expected. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything. Everything could go wrong, and everything went wrong.

  • It all started with an infield single by Wilson Contreras.
  • Then, Ben Zobrist singled, advancing Contreras to second base.
  • With two on and two outs, Addison Russell steps in the batter box and rifled a ball down the left field line for a double, scoring two runners, and giving the Cubs a one run lead.

You might be asking yourself, how is this happening to Max Scherzer? This is crazy as it is! Could it possibly get worse?

  • Well, after intentionally walking Jayson Heyward, Scherzer strikes out the next batter, Javier Baez, in three pitches.

Nationals avoid a total disaster and end the inning, right? Well, Nationals catcher Matt Wieters had other plans.

  • On the third strike, Wieters lets the ball pass his glove and the ball rolls all the way to the backstop, letting Baez reach first base safely.
  • Wieters, frantically trying to recover from his mistake, still fires the ball down to first base to try and retire Baez even though no play could possibly be made. The throw was erratic, and the ball flies past first base and trickles into the outfield, letting Russell stroll home and advancing both Heyward and Baez another base.

The Cubs lead extends to two. But things get even worse.

  • Pinch hitter Tommy La Stella steps in the box, and by the third pitch is heading down to first base due to a controversial catcher’s interference, thanks to Matt Wieters.

Now, we have a bases loaded with two outs situation. Scherzer is still in the game, fuming at this point. Scherzer’s anger did not improve his pitching.

  • Next batter, John Jay, gets hit by a pitch, sending in another run. Cubs lead is now three.

At this point, the stadium is silent, and all you could hear was the whooping and hollering in the Cubs dugout. Scherzer finally records the third out on the next batter, ending the fifth inning with a 7-4 Cubs lead.

The damage was catastrophic. Although the Nationals tallied four more runs throughout the rest of the game, the Cubs managed to score two more runs to keep pace, leading to yet another loss in an elimination game at home.

The worst part? The Nationals lost in the craziest, most unpredictable way possible. Or, in other words, expected. This is expected from a club that is incapable of winning important games. This is expected from a team that has a rich history of collapsing in big moments. This game just adds another chapter to the Washington Nationals heartbreaking history.

However, us D.C. fans are used to these constant letdowns. The Nationals are not the only team in the district to have a disappointing recent history. The Capitals, Wizards and Redskins all have left fans heartbroken in recent years, so this feeling is not new to them.

All a Washington sports fan can do is keep their head up, regain confidence in your team, and remember that there is always next year.