Life is Pain and Suffering; Cubs beat Nats 3-0; Lead Series 1-0

Life is Pain and Suffering; Cubs beat Nats 3-0; Lead Series 1-0

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.

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Perspective: It’s Time to Put the Past Behind Us

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Photo: Washington Times

By Michael Marzzacco

I have been a Nationals fan since 2005 and I have seen a lot. I went to some games in their inaugural season, the year they came in first place at the All Star break and had a rough second half. I saw Alfonso Soriano hit three home runs and Ryan Zimmerman deliver the first walk-off home run in team history. I said goodbye to RFK Stadium and hello to Nationals Park. I endured two 100-loss seasons and experience the rebuild and the drafting of Stephen Srasburg and Bryce Harper.

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The Ryan Zimmerman Resurgence

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By Michael Marzzacco

If you’ve been a fan of the Nationals since 2005, you must be thrilled with the type of season that Ryan Zimmerman is having. Despite the injury bug taking a bite out of most of the Opening Day lineup throughout the course of the season, Zimmerman’s MVP-like season is a positive story line in DC besides the fact that the Nationals are still dominating the competition.

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Bryce Harper Returns Tonight

XXX at Chase Field on July 22, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona.
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By Michael Marzzacco

Bryce Harper’s return comes a day later than most expected after he missed yesterday’s contest to flu-like symptoms. Tonight he will finally be back and the Nationals organization and their fans couldn’t be more excited. After a scare in the middle of August when Harper ran to first, many thought the Nationals superstar’s season was over. If it was truly over, it would have been a big blow to the best Washington Nationals team to date. Now with Harper back in the lineup, the Nationals have pretty much all the guys they need for the Postseason. The only true offensive player missing from the lineup is Adam Eaton.

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Gonzalez Phenomenal as Nats Win Series Over Padres

Gonzalez Phenomenal as Nats Win Series Over Padres

By Matthew Jacobson (@MJacobson12)

Gio Gonzalez appears to have mastered time travel, as he clearly looks like his 2012 self, where he won 20 games.  Gonzalez has the best home field ERA in the National league, and is in the top 5 in wins on the road.  Gonzalez, who had struggled following his 21-win season in 2012, was considered an X-factor for the success of this ballclub coming into the season, especially if they were to go deep into the postseason.  Gonzalez has answered his doubters and then some.

Gio went 6.2 innings, allowing 5 hits and one run, while striking out 8 and walking just one.  He was masterful, and in a series where the Nationals have struggled to score runs, dominant pitching performances have been crucial.  Gonzalez did throw over 120 pitches, but he looked comfortable until his final batter, and with injuries to many key bullpen pieces (Madson, Romero, Glover), manager Dusty Baker felt he could extend his starter a little longer, and it paid off.

Offensively, Daniel Murphy led the way with 2 RBIs. Adam Lind continued his impressive season with an RBI double, and Howie Kendrick looks like the acquisition of the millennium, beating out a double play ball to score a 4th run in the top of the 8th inning.  Kendrick has been unreal since being traded to the Nationals, and when everyone gets healthy, it will be difficult to take him out of the lineup.

The Bullpen. Oh the famed Nationals bullpen. A bullpen where you would wonder if a 7 run lead in the 8th inning was safe but 6 weeks ago.  The Nationals bullpen was named bullpen of the week from this past week, with Brandon Kintzler and Sean Doolittle leading the way.  The two of them were on display once again Sunday night, as Kintzler earned another hold and scoreless inning, while Sean Doolittle, dubbed “The Doctor” by our very own F.P. Santangelo, converted his 11th save in 11 tries since being traded to the Nats.

It was an impressive series win in a series where the Nationals so easily could have fallen flat on their faces. Considering the injuries, as well as the west coast time change, it was one where many fans did expect them to fall flat on their faces, but the composure this team has shown in the face of adversity has been second to none. They have adopted the “next-man-up” philosophy that all successful ballclubs have. Everyone gets hurt, it’s a matter of how you deal with the injuries, and the Nationals have dealt with them as well as they could.

The Nats kick off a potential World Series preview against the Astros in Houston this evening, with first pitch scheduled for 8:05. Tanner Roark hopes to continue an impressive run of form against Charlie Morton.  I’ll be at the Orioles game tonight, but hope to catch the end once I’m home.