In true Harry fashion, I shout it loud and proud, but know that it takes a couple more to make it count.
Tonight’s 3-0 game in our Nation’s Capital makes it clear that the Nats are going to have to play tight defense if they intend to stop the Cubs.
Strasburg was completely dominant all night. He did allow three hits and had two unearned runs over seven, but he also struck out ten, he was definitely hitting all the corners.
However, like most playoff baseball, winning comes down to three moments in the game where momentum plays a major factor.
When Rendon missed a play to first in the sixth inning, it setup a minor rally that notched two runs. This was the inning that clearly blew out the game plan for Nationals Manager Dusty Baker.
He yanked Strasburg out after this inning, despite the fact that these runs were not on his stats, and the hits were mostly standard fare from both Rizzo and Bryant, two all-stars that hit in the .300’s in October. Strasburg threw 81 pitches over his seven innings, 60 being strikes. He was near perfect. True, he has a sorted injury past, and all things being equal it would make sense to pull him before he risked his arm, if there was a lead.
However, the Nats needed his arm to keep the Cubs at bay. The way Baker took him out was equally embarrassing, from a managerial standpoint. He put veteran infielder, and clutch contact hitter, Howie Kendrick in as a pinch hitter to try and stretch Michael Taylor from first base, and drive him in. Taylor didn’t steal second, he didn’t advance on a bad pitch, nor did Kendrick hit in the clutch, and thus Strasburg’s night was over, and the Nats continued to be shut out.
Jon Jay pinch hit in the 8th, bringing Kyle Hendricks’ night to an end, he too pitched well. Jay’s lone at-bat was a double, and it was big. It setup Rizzo to knock him in, bringing the Cubs to a 3-0 lead, which was inevitably the final tally. Carl Edwards, Jr and Wade Davis took the 8th and the 9th to shutdown the Nats for the rest of the game, and it was history.
This was supposed to be the ‘Do or Die’ Nats. The team they have now is in it’s swan song, because much of their core is in final contract years, and it’s going to be difficult to keep everyone, with their undoubtedly higher price tags.
I have to say, they’re already falling apart. In the 8th, Ryan Zimmerman was a put-out, and half the reason was because he ran the inside base path, which led to him being beaned, rather than tagged for the out. It’s a rule violation, though rarely called, and unfortunately for him, the first base umpire had a clear view of it, and called. Jayson Werth, a notorious under-performer that the Nats employ, and has also called this year his own swan song lost his mind with the umpire. For a guy who said he was humbled by weekend jail terms he had to serve for driving like banshee in Fairfax County, he sure displayed it in that moment.
Hendricks pitched a solid outing, but he’s supposedly the weak pitcher in the Cubs rotation now. That was Game 1. Game 2 the Nats are facing Jon Lester, and Game 3 they are facing Jake Arrieta, who’s recovering from that end of season hamstring injury, but is also dying to throw some heat now in October.
The Nats aren’t going to have any easier day at the plate than what they just had. And their defensive play squandered it, but more importantly, their weak batting played an even bigger, more silent role.
For me, it’s full sails, and we’re cruising to the NLCS, go Cubs!
For the Nats, it may be time to forget this team, and to continue finding a way to actually win in the playoffs.