The Nationals have won the NL East, the first team to punch their ticket to the postseason. And even if there’s 17 games left in the regular season, Dusty Baker is already managing this team like its October. Which means TERRIBLY.
Because Dusty had Max Scherzer on the mound last night. And the Lizard did his best to run his ace into the ground. And if you’re looking for a crystal ball into the Nats future — or if you were looking for Dusty to play his postseason greatest hits — you were in luck. Because you got BOTH last night. Because the Nats went full Nats, and it was glorious.
Let me set this up for you. Sitting on 97 pitches through six innings, Scherzer wanted one more. He wanted to stretch himself out — push his pitch count past 110 to get ready for the postseason. And even though he’s less than a month removed from a stint on the D.L., even though he’s got a few more starts to ramp up before October, Dusty gave him the green light.
And then KEPT that green light on as Scherzer threw ball after ball after ball after ball.
A 5 pitch walk to leadoff man Lance Adams, taking him to 102 pitches, and a walk that got left Sammy Solis up and loose. A 7 pitch walk to Jace Peterson, taking him to 109. That got Brandon Kintzler up and moving. And then FINALLY a mound visit. From pitching coach Mike Maddux.
Meanwhile Dusty’s checking his wristbands. Cleaning out his spikes as his ace is gasses out right in front of him, walking the bases loaded with a third-straight free pass to Ozzie Albies. That’s when you go get him, right? Right? WRONG. Because the Lizard gave everybody an October preview by leaving Max in the game as Danby Swanson went and hit a two-run single for the lead.
And after an Intentional Walk to Freddie Freeman — the SIXTH WALK OF THE NIGHT for Scherzer, his most since 2013, Dusty did what only Dusty can do. Went to the mound. Got his ace. Then left a gas can and a blue-tip burning on the rubber for Brandon Kintzler, who needed just ONE PITCH to for Matt Kemp to see, and hit a Grand Slam!
SO NATS. So freaking Nats. Even Dusty acknowledged postgame that things got away from him: “I know it looked ugly. It looked ugly to you, it looked ugly to us, and the fans and everybody else. But if you have a game plan then you want to stick with it as much and as long as you can.”
Not if your game plan is that terrible you don’t, Dust. Not if your plan is letting your ace go out there and go Brad and Corona on the joint. Maybe if the strategy is to get the bad losses out of the way now. Or get your bullpen to incinerate now and patch itself back together for the postseason. Or get the fans ready for another season of a hatchet to the chest in a few weeks.
Because it doesn’t matter that it was Scherzer’s idea to stretch out and stay in the game. Pitchers pitch. Managers manage. And that second part — managers managing — is why nobody trusts this Washington team come the postseason.