I wrote this in October 2016:
Here we are. Again. Another division championship ultimately means nothing as another team celebrates on the Nationals home field.
Now we’re here again. Another Game 5 loss at home, again by one run. It’s harsh to say, as I did last year, that the division title “means nothing.” Winning the division is always an achievement. But now it’s four attempts–and four failures–to win a playoff series. It’s getting old.
This was an epic series with some pretty epic moments, but let’s start with Game 5, one of the most infuriating games imaginable. Consider the Cubs scored scored on:
-A ground ball
-Another ground ball
-A passed ball
-4 runs in one inning off the best pitcher in the league, including one off a strikeout/passed ball/throwing error and one off a hit batter following a catcher interference–all with 2 outs
-A ball Jayson Werth lost in the lights
-Another ground ball
Also, the Cubs had six walks.
-Trea Turner was thrown out at home
-Ryan Zimmerman left 7 men on base by striking out 3 times
-Zimmerman didn’t score from first base on a double hit over the left fielders head with 2 outs
-Matt Wieters left the bases loaded by flying out after Dusty Baker decided not to pitch hit, when Adam Lind and Howie Kendrick were available
-Jose Lobaton was picked off at first base, ending an 8th inning rally with the tying run on 2B
To be fair, the Cubs made a ton of mistakes too–the Nats did not have monopoly on sloppy baseball. But if this team played even a moderately fundamental baseball game, they’re on a plane to LA tomorrow.
Series are not lost in one day, however. This team was in a do or die situation because their bats failed to show up in Game 1 and 3. A baseball team cannot score 0 runs in one game, 1 run in another, and then give up 9 runs in another and expect to win a 5 game series. These short series are unforgiving and leave no margin for error, as the Nationals know by now.
It’s all so infuriating because this is a huge waste. They wasted Harper’s heroic home run in Game 2. They wasted Strasburg’s epic performance in Game 4. They wasted Michael A. Taylor’s grand slam at Wrigley and 3-run homer in Game 5. Most importantly, the wasted a potential World Series run with the top three pitching ERAs in the league and an explosive lineup. This was likely the most dangerous and complete Nationals team yet, and they didn’t get any closer than the previous versions.
There is a whole offseason to think about the player failures and managerial decisions that led to this outcome. But for now, I’m tired so I’ll leave you with the same thing I wrote exactly one year ago.
The Nats came close, but not close enough. The best part is we get to do it all again. Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next February.