Like Cleveland before them, the Washington Nationals went Washington National once again. Stephen Strasburg may have changed his reputation and saved the Nationals season, but he can’t change their DNA. This is who they are. This is what they do. Get as close as humanly possible, and then find a way to lose. And you can’t find a more Nationals way to lose than the way they did last night.
Thanks to Strasburg’s masterpiece in Game 4, the Nats were able to get to a Game 5. And it was all there for them. They were at home. And promptly fell behind 1-0 in the first inning. And of course everyone in Nats gear knew how this would go. Except it didn’t. Here comes Daniel Murphy in the bottom of the second doubling.
That was followed up by a pair of singles and then Michael A. Taylor, who smoked a grand slam in Game 4, came to the plate with two men on.
A guy with four home runs in the first two months of the season just went yard for the second straight game and it could not have been bigger or more important.
Now it’s 4-1 Nats. Chicago chipped away and got it to 4-3, but Dusty Baker turned to his ace, Max Scherzer, in the fifth. And for a moment, it was brilliant. Scherzer got Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. And then the Nats went Nat. Natitude filled the night.
Willson Contreras, infield single. Ben Zobrist, pinch-hit single. And then came Addison Russell.
2-run, 2-out double. 5-4 Cubs.
And as bad as that was, it was about to get worse. Scherzer fell behind Jason Heyward and then intentionally walked him to get to Javy Baez. Smart move, because he struck out Javy Baez. That’s good. But the third strike got away from catcher Matt Wieters. That’s bad. But wait, my man Wieters went all Little League on it and raced to get the ball and throw Baez out at first, only to heave it into the outfield, and allow Russell to score. 6-4 Cubs.
As if that wasn’t enough chaos from Wieters, Tommy La Stella reached on a catcher’s interference, loading the bases. And then Scherzer hit Jon Jay to bring in another run. 7-4 Cubs. So to recap: the Cubs reached based with an intentional walk, a dropped third strike, catcher’s interference, and a hit batter. And they scored two runs in the process. All with two outs. And your ace on the mound at home. You simply cannot get any more Nats than that.
As Scherzer said afterwards, “Just gut-punched again. Here we are in Game 5. Play our hearts out. Everybody lays it on the line. Everybody’s fighting to do everything they can. It was a nail-biter game again. It just sucks because I know how hard everyone played. This game’s cruel sometimes the way things can happen.”
But that didn’t stop the Nats from trying and Jayson Werth did a pretty good job when he lost an Addison Russell hit in the lights and another run scored.
And yes, there was that weird replay in the bottom of the 8th where Nats catcher Jose Lobaton was safe on first and then replay somehow found that he was off the bag for a millisecond and he was ruled out. That’s incredibly weird and I’m not totally sure that’s how replay should work. I’m also sure that’s not why the National lost. It didn’t help, but the Nats didn’t lose because of that replay. They lost because they’re the Nats.
Somehow, despite all of their Natti-ness, Washington clawed their way back into it, got to 9-8, and had a chance in the bottom of the ninth inning with Wade Davis chugging past 40 pitches looking for a 7 out save. Up came Bryce Harper with a chance to tie it with one swing, but couldn’t hit Davis.
Fanning Harper with your 44th pitch of the night is brass. Totally brass. Or, as Jon Lester said, “That’s a bad mother[expletive], bro. That’s a bad dude.”
An incredibly bad dude. And an incredibly bad end for the Nationals. Again. And yet oh, so predictable. See you next year, fellas. Same time, same place, same result.