Sport MLB playoffs: Bizarre sequence leads to another postseason heartbreak for Nationals

08:15  13 october  2017
08:15  13 october  2017 Source:   Sporting News

MLB playoffs: Bryce Harper's blast may have changed the Nationals' playoff fortunes

  MLB playoffs: Bryce Harper's blast may have changed the Nationals' playoff fortunes The Washington Nationals have been consistently good and often inexplicably come up small on the sport’s biggest stage. Bryce Harper changed the narrative Saturday night. MORE: Three takeaways from Nationals' Game 2 winWith his game-tying, eighth-inning blast into the second deck at Nationals Park, Harper provided — at least temporarily — a loud record scratch in what to that point sounded like the same ol’ song for a team that tends to hit all the wrong notes when it plays baseball in October.

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WASHINGTON — In the fifth inning of a heartbreaking playoff loss that will torment tormented Nationals fans until, well, the next inevitable heartbreaking playoff loss — the home team fell, 9-8, to the Cubs in Game 5 of the NLDS — a rather incredible sequence of events transpired.

To be clear, this was a contest full of incredible sequences of events.

MORE: Box score, stats | SN's live blog

For the moment, let’s just look at the fifth inning. And not even the whole fifth inning. Just the top half of the fifth inning. With two runs already in, two outs and Addison Russell on second base, four Cubs reached base safely against Max Scherzer, in this order:

MLB playoffs: Bryce Harper's blast may have changed the Nationals' playoff fortunes

  MLB playoffs: Bryce Harper's blast may have changed the Nationals' playoff fortunes The Washington Nationals have been consistently good and often inexplicably come up small on the sport’s biggest stage. Bryce Harper changed the narrative Saturday night. MORE: Three takeaways from Nationals' Game 2 winWith his game-tying, eighth-inning blast into the second deck at Nationals Park, Harper provided — at least temporarily — a loud record scratch in what to that point sounded like the same ol’ song for a team that tends to hit all the wrong notes when it plays baseball in October.

More heartbreak for Highlanders.

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1. Manager Dusty Baker ordered an intentional walk of Jason Heyward, who had a .121 average in 58 at-bats over the past two postseasons as he stepped to the plate.

2. Javier Baez swung and missed at Strike 3, but catcher Matt Wieters missed the ball and it went to the backstop. Baez was going to easily reach first safely, but Wieters threw anyway. Wild. Russell scored, Heyward raced to third and Baez wound up on second base.

3. Tommy La Stella swung and pulled a ball foul down the first-base line. Harmless, right? Wrong. Wieters reached too far out to receive the pitch, and La Stella’s bat made contact. Catcher’s interference, which means La Stella was awarded first base, loading the bases.

Max Scherzer © (Getty Images) Max Scherzer

4. Scherzer — on in relief of starter Gio Gonzalez — hit Jon Jay in the ankle with a pitch, forcing in Heyward.

MLB playoffs: Bryce Harper's blast may have changed the Nationals' playoff fortunes

  MLB playoffs: Bryce Harper's blast may have changed the Nationals' playoff fortunes The Washington Nationals have been consistently good and often inexplicably come up small on the sport’s biggest stage. Bryce Harper changed the narrative Saturday night. MORE: Three takeaways from Nationals' Game 2 winWith his game-tying, eighth-inning blast into the second deck at Nationals Park, Harper provided — at least temporarily — a loud record scratch in what to that point sounded like the same ol’ song for a team that tends to hit all the wrong notes when it plays baseball in October.

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That’s … an incredible series of unfortunate events for Scherzer and his Nationals.

POSTSEASON ODDITIES: Another catcher's interference

An intentional walk of an inept hitter, a strikeout/passed ball, a catcher’s interference/E2 and a hit-by-pitch from the guy who will probably be this year’s NL Cy Young winner.

Little league coaches don’t have to write down that combination in their scorebooks, but it happened to the Nationals on Thursday, in a win-or-go-home game in the MLB playoffs. They are going home.

I have an assignment for you. Next time you see a Nationals fan, give that person a hug.

The Nationals have four seasons of 95 or more wins in the past six years, and they still have yet to win a postseason series since the franchise moved from Montreal after the 2004 season.

FOSTER: Remembering the Expos' semi-forgotten '81 NLDS win

This loss hurts just as much as any, if not more. They led 4-1 at a point in the game that had been forgotten by the time Jayson Werth completely missed a catchable line drive off Russell’s bat in the sixth inning. That mistake allowed Ben Zobrist to score all the way from first, Chicago’s ninth run of the game.

In the first four games of this series, the Cubs had scored eight runs, total. They eclipsed that number by the sixth inning of one of the most important games in Nationals franchise history.

Which makes this one of the most heartbreaking losses in Nationals history, and that’s saying something.

Dusty Baker is October's heartbreak kid, and it's hard to figure out why .
Dusty Baker's teams consistently put themselves in a position to advance in the postseason, and then they don't. Why does it keep happening?With the Nationals' elimination from the NLDS on Thursday, Baker's teams are now 0 for their past 10 in potential series-clinching wins. That's 10 losses, spread across three teams over a span of 14 seasons. Thanks to Baker's Cubs winning the 2003 NLDS against the Braves, that 0-for-10 tally doesn't include the 2002 World Series, in which Baker's Giants held a 3-2 lead against the Angels — and had a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning of Game 6 — before losing the final two games.

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