Just in case you were focusing on other baseball.
Whether because of overlap with other postseason games, the times of day this series was televised, or the fact that about 60% of the innings were baseball’s form of that video of a Norwegian train traveling for hours on end, it feels like of all the division series, Nationals vs. Cubs was the one that received shortest of shrifts.
That whole mold and flu thing happened, but that was more about baseball debates than the actual baseball since Strasburg still pitched lights out while apparently having a small valley’s worth of spores in his lungs.
When it comes to things that actually happened on the field, without a Game 5 this series might have slipped by without the attention that some of the moments rightfully deserved. (Only some of the moments though, because as I said half of some of these games were REAL SNOOZERS.)
These are the five best moments from the series the got an eeeensy bit overshadowed by the other baseball happening.
Stephen Strasburg’s pitching performances
Strasburg pitched in probably two of the most important games of the series. Game 1, which was meant to set the tone for the Nationals and start them off with a win and Game 4, which they needed to win to stay in the series at all.
He accomplished both of those things, even though the team behind him dropped the ball on the first part of the that deal by allowing two unearned runs with him on the hill on the way to a 3-0 loss.
His stat lines for both games, the second one even somehow better than the first.
Game 1: 7 IP, 3 H, 2R, 1 BB, 10 SO
Game 2: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 SO
That’s...not human. That’s not terrestrial. Which baseball-loving space species sent us Stephen Strasburg and who do we send the thank you note to? Is there extra postage required for inter-universe mail? Because we might not actually have that much cash handy....
Regardless, the point stands. Both of these pitching performances were like watching a ballerina flawlessly execute a turn on pointe seven times in a row without resting, or a track star leaping over each hurdle without issue at top speed.
It’s the kind of pitching you want to tell your kids about one day, and it’s especially impressive when you consider he may or may not have been peer pressured into the start by a fanbase and organization that really, truly needs to finally win a playoff series.
Are you still shocked this really happened? I’m still more surprised this happened than when Princess Buttercup found out Wesley was the Dread Pirate Roberts.
It’s been a full day since it went down and my face still hasn’t snapped back to it’s non-astonished form. It might be frozen that way. Forever a mark of how incredible it was that not only did Jon Lester finally pick somebody off at first after years of barely being able to throw over, but he did it in the playoffs while pitching multiple innings of relief in a potentially clinching game for the Cubs.
Watch it happen if you missed it, or watch it again if you need to. Ha, just kidding. Everybody needs to watch it again. Or nine more times. We’ll wait while you take ten minutes to watch this on a loop.
JON LESTER POSTSEASON PICK-OFF pic.twitter.com/TXp4YoCniv— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 11, 2017
Everybody back from 19 straight minutes of watching that on a loop? Ok cool.
Whether this was the cure for his legendary yips, the result of an extensive long con that he consulted with Danny Ocean on, or simply a fluke that he didn’t even mean to happen, the fact that it did is still amazing.
Mostly because nobody expected it, and no one who was watching at home didn’t feel a little good for Lester for pulling it off. He might not do it again for the remainder of his career, but he did it once! In the playoffs!
Washington’s Game 3 comeback home runs
It looked like the Nationals were going to head for heartbreak ahead of schedule (or right on schedule depending on how much credit you give them in the postseason) with a Game 2 loss. Facing down the possibility of a two-game hole in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Nationals’ top star came through in the clutch to tie it.
Which would have been enough to at least give his team a chance to score more the next inning, except for Ryan Zimmerman decided that it wasn’t going to take that long and jacked his own three-run home run shot to put Washington ahead for good.
That’s baseball heroism in it’s most classic form. We’re losing, so let’s hope our strong baseball boys can score runs by sending baseballs over that there wall a few hundred feet away.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does though, it’s awesome.
Cubs rally after Bill Murray sings
Sometimes, without something especially historic or physically impossible taking place, baseball can just be really cool. That’s part of the fun of the sport -- outside of walk off wins and no-hitters and perfect games and amazing catches — the things that happen because it seems like the baseball universe wants them to at a particular moment and because the stadium’s emotion seems to will it to happen.
In Game 3, there was one of those moments. For the first time since last year’s World Series, maniacal Cubs fan Bill Murray did the seventh inning stretch honors and sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame with his brother (no no not that brother, the other less famous brother).
Right after he finished with his (maybe not super sober) rendition of the classic, the Cubs rallied. With Murray in the front row in his old school Cubs gear, eyes on each player like he was casing the field for a heist — which, incidentally, would make a great movie — and almost immediately tied things up in the bottom of the inning.
They’d end up winning it with another run in the ninth to seal it, and maybe the timing had absolutely nothing to do with baseball magic or the moment, but it certainly felt like it. And sometimes that’s all that matters.
Surprise hero Michael A. Taylor
The Nationals didn’t advance, but just because we know the outcome doesn’t mean watching Taylor jack home runs in back-to-back games (and, technically, back-to-back at bats!) was any less entertaining.
All of his runs that were helpful in the games not actually mattering because the Nationals lost the series doesn’t make them any less fun to watch.
There are people you expect to come to the rescue in high-pressure postseason situations — your Anthony Rizzos and Bryce Harpers of the world — and then there are those who just step up and do the dang thing out of nowhere.
Michael A. Taylor was one of those people. He’s no slouch but not somebody that you would automatically choose to hit an eighth-inning grand slam against Cubs reliever Wade Davis to get his team four extra insurance runs, only to hit a three-run go-ahead homer his first at bat the very next day.
So that’s that. Whether it’s because you were out living life during these games or simply wanted to focus on your favorite American League team at the expense of this series, these are all the fun moments you missed that made the series a pretty solid one.
There were other, depressing, moments that mostly belonged to the Nationals. But let’s keep it all positive for this one post.