One out. That’s all it needed to end a postseason game. At home. Again.
One stupid out for Drew Storen to redeem himself from his emotionally scarring outing two years ago, win his manager’s trust to be the closer of the Nationals again and tie the series at 1 after another out-of-body experience by Jordan Zimmermann. I mean, he almost had two straight complete game shutouts!!!!
Now everyone is going to time and again complain that Zimmermann should have stayed in the game after controversially giving up a walk on Joe Panik in that ninth inning. Personally, that’s a tougher call than people give credit, even with the Nats calculated to win 96.7% of the time. Again, Tom Boswell nailed it with his piece and definitely agreed with the consensus that Zimmermann should have finished the game and the heart of the Giants lineup that he essentially took to school all game long. That being said, it’s not like Storen has shown any signs of being frail for this moment in the last month; a time when the fan base was praying that Storen can shore up the tail end of the bullpen when Rafael Soriano was performing terribly. At that moment, I did not mind bringing in Storen, but you could hear groans from the crowd that translated in “really?! I wouldn’t do that!” in English. Surely enough, Buster Posey and then Pablo Sandoval shredded Storen with a single and double, respectively. If it wasn’t for a milimeters-away-from-not-working relay from Bryce Harper to Ian Desmond and then to Wilson Ramos during Sandoval’s double, Posey would have never have been tagged out on his hip when coming home and Storen might has well have been Charlie Brown in a Nationals Uniform. Good grief, indeed!
The bottom of the ninth, however, is where I starting seeing the problem. First, Bryce Harper remembered that he can really hit points of petulance when he plays baseball and that is what he did when home plate umpire Vic Carapazza was giving strikes on a couple of pitches that were below his knees. Harper was cursing like a sailor (but thankfully away from the umpire), but you can see Asdrubal Cabrera getting in the act from the dugout on television. When it was his turn to bat in the 10th inning, Cabrera slammed his bat when Carapazza gave strike three on the same situation as Bryce. Carapazza immediately ejected him before Cabrera decided to give his own sailor talk, but inches away from Carapazza’s face this time.
Even though Carapazza was a disaster as a home plate umpire, I truly believe that as long as instant replay fixes a situation where hundreds of pitches per game can be analyzed correctly without slowing a baseball game even further, you simply never argue about balls and strikes, especially during the postseason. It’s just pointless, and you’ll never get anything fixed out of it unless you find creative ways to argue. For example, why do we never argue with the catcher if the advanced stats community has proven that the best ones frame pitches that confuse umpires like the best divers in basketball or soccer? Anywho, Matt Williams had no choice but to defend Cabrera’s actions by joining in a language only mastered by Earl Weaver towards Carapazza, and in front of his face as is customary tradition.
Whether people like it or not, the Nats had to play the remaining eight innings (!!!) with Randy Knorr being the temporary manager. That is huge in the National league because of not only the decisions you have to make for when to change relief pitchers but also the decisions you have to make for who and when to pinch hit for the pitcher’s turn in the batting order. As a whole, Knorr did a solid job behind the dugout, especially when Danny Espinoza was called upon to make some of his usual fantastic plays with the glove and especially when Rafael Soriano came in and got the job done in his innings worth of relief. What I will wonder is how concerned the Nationals clubhouse is about Ryan Zimmerman’s hamstrings, especially as the temperatures were hitting the 40s and winds were howling late into the night. I’m not saying it would have been the right call, but I had to wonder what would happen if he was okay enough to have Zimmerman play third base and you move hot-hitting Anthony Rendon to second. Even if you disagree, who knows if you have to decide on that if Major League Baseball decides to suspend Cabrera from game 3 and beyond, or you desperately need to find somebody (anybody!) to give you some base hits and runs.
If you have ever watched any extra inning baseball, you know that by the time you pass the 12th inning, a baseball game goes from shear drama to “can someone do something in the clutch for once in their livelihood?!?!” You’re just simply worn out from all the stress from trying to see everyone struggle to finish off a game from what looks like a simple act. By the time the 15th inning came to an end, the crowd was getting increasingly restless when knowing that another inning had to be played. For me, I tried to stay sharp by doing what I do best: make fun of commercials. I mean, can these two commercials get any more sexist? Also, the more I watch Derek Jeter’s tribute commercial, the more I ask if Frank Sinatra performed this South Park song (no, of course he didn’t). Yeah, that’s what my brain was thinking of in order to avoid any health hazards my body could have gone through because of this game.
From here on out, Washington’s bats could not hit to save their life. In MASN’s postgame analysis, a morose Ray Knight stated bluntly that there were way too many Nats hitters that swung on bad pitches. It was simply incredible how many left handed hitters got out by a whimpy ground ball to second. Span, LaRoche and Werth have simply forgotten how to consistently get base hits at the worst possible time. The stat of the night is the fact that Nats hitter struck out 20 times in this 18 inning contest. That’s the equivalent of having a hall of fame pitcher dominate you every game, except it was an aging Tim Hudson and a struggling Jake Peavy leading the charge.
As stated a few days ago, life is too short and only hockey can rival the amount of upsets baseball can create in the postseason. I’ll just go ahead and let the true king of DC sports writing, Tom Boswell, finish it off the right way from his latest column.
Sports elicits a watered-down, endurable version of the implacable indifference to our wishes of things as they are. But sometimes it really does feel as if, even in games, that enough ought to be enough. When a city is on a losing streak, you can wonder if the investment is wise.
Then, once every decade or two, which is unfortunately the natural distribution of such things, a parade comes along and you realize that mere ballgame losses are a tolerable price for a huge bundle of commonly held memories and conversation pieces that we share and use to bind ourselves to each other. Commiseration is good, but celebration is so much better.