Another year, another playoff disappointment for the Washington Nationals. For the fourth time in six years, the Nationals lost a National League Division Series in which they had home field advantage. In losing 9-8 to the Chicago Cubs, Thursday night was their third Game 5 loss at home during that span.
Washington led 4-1 after two innings, but couldn’t hold it. Gio Gonzalez, who started Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS for the Nationals, got the call on Thursday night.
“Gio had gone Game 5 a couple years ago, three years ago, you know, and didn’t do too well, so I’m sure redemption is on his mind, as well,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Thursday. “All those factors into went into choosing today’s starter.“
Gonzalez lasted just three innings against the Cubs, allowing three runs.
The Nationals still led 4-3 after four innings, when ace and NL Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer was brought in from the bullpen, three days after his Game 3 start. That’s when things got cruel for Washington.
Scherzer got the first two outs of the inning, but then this happened:
- Infield single
- Bloop single
- 2-run double
- Intentional walk
- Strikeout, but a passed ball then a throwing error by catcher Matt Wieters
- Catcher’s interference
- Hit by pitch, to force in another run
That gave the Cubs a four-run rally and the lead, one they would never relinquish, sending the Nationals home with yet another Game 5 loss. The others:
In 2012, the Nationals coalesced sooner than many people thought, winning 98 games. That was 19-year-old Bryce Harper’s rookie season, and the first full season for Stephen Strasburg, then 23. Tied with the Wild Card St. Louis Cardinals through four games of the NLDS, Washington steamrolled to a 6-0 lead at home in Game 5 after just three innings.
St. Louis slowly chipped away at Gonzalez, who allowed three runs in his five innings, but the Nationals held a 7-5 lead entering the ninth. The score was still 7-5 with two outs in the inning, with just one runner on second base, but Drew Storen couldn’t hold it.
Two walks loaded the bases, then a two-run single by Daniel Descalso tied it, followed by a two-run single by Pete Kozma to give the Cardinals a 9-7 win, a shocking result after Washington had a 96% win probability earlier in the inning.
The Nationals led Game 5 against the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 through six innings, with ace and 2016 NL Cy Young Award winner Scherzer on the mound. But a solo home run by Joc Pederson to lead off the seventh inning ended Scherzer’s night, then LA rallied for three more runs against four different Washington pitchers, with the big blow a two-run triple by Justin Turner against Shawn Kelley with two outs in the inning.
Chris Heisey hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the inning for the Nationals to cut their deficit to 4-3, but then Kenley Jansen made the longest relief appearance of his life. The Dodgers closer threw 51 pitches and pitched into the ninth, until he couldn’t pitch anymore. After a pair of one-out walks in the ninth inning, the Dodgers turned to ace Clayton Kershaw for the final two outs, just two days after he threw 110 pitches in his Game 4 start on short rest.
“I wish they would have brought somebody else in,” said a dejected Dusty Baker after the loss.
The Nationals are 3-8 at home in the postseason.