By Matthew Jacobson (@MJacobson12)
What have we done, O baseball gods? What have we done to deserve this? Despite having arguably the most complete roster in the history of the franchise, an offense that served up nearly 6 runs per game at points of the season went silent at the biggest moment against Cubs’ starter Kyle Hendricks. Stephen Strasburg was masterful, throwing 7 innings while allowing three runs on two hits. He struck out ten hitters, sending Nationals Park into absolute hysteria. At times during the night, he was untouchable. This was the start that Nats fans had been hoping for from him since the day he was drafted. This was his moment, and was supposed to be the moment that carried the Nats to take a lead in this NLDS.
It all changed on what seemed like a harmless ground ball to Anthony Rendon in the sixth inning. Rendon dropped the ball on the transfer from the glove, allowing Javier Baez to take first base. He would be moved over by a Kyle Hendricks sac bunt, and would come around to score on an RBI single by Kris Bryant. Bryant would later score on an RBI single that dropped agonizingly close to Bryce Harper. The Cubs took a 2-0 lead that they would not relinquish. Rizzo would knock in another run later in the game, but at that point we all knew the game was over. Carl Edwards pitched a scoreless 8th, and Wade Davis shut it down in the 9th to give the Cubs game 1, and swing home field advantage distinctly in their favor.
Mistakes were made on many fronts; Why not bring in a matchup lefty (of which the Nationals were carrying 4) to face Rizzo in the 8th inning and a man on base? Why not pinch-hit Adam Lind with Michael Taylor on base, needing instant offense? Why even take Strasburg out the way he was pitching? Either way, if things don’t change for game 2, it’ll be 2014 all over again. The Nationals cannot afford to fall behind 2-0 to the defending World Champions.
I personally did not expect the Nationals to win the series before this game, and now I really don’t expect them to do so, even if they do end up taking game 2. Either way, taking a game (or multiple games) at Wrigley Field is likely too tall a task for the Nationals, a team infamous for their lack of resolve when faced with adversity, to overcome.
Gio Gonzalez looks to salvage the season against Jon Lester, a pitcher notorious for throwing in big games. First pitch is at 5:38 on TBS. God, if you’re out there, just give us something to be happy about for once.