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.