Here we go! The Ghost of Tim Wallach pushed the Nationals and their inherent Natitude to the post-season. Now it is up to Bryce Harper and a bunch of guys named Zimmerman to get them to the promised land. The Cardinals are not only the defending World Series Champions but the winner of the momentum-granting Wild Card play-in game. NOTE: momentum entirely dependent on play of opposition.

Huge advantage to the Nationals who get to send their ace to the hill. One of the very best pitchers in baseball, Stephen Strasburg gives the Nats a great chance to win every time he takes the mound. Oh. Right.

Lineups!

NATITUDE Cradcore
J. Werth RF J. Jay cf
B. Harper CF C. Beltran rf
R. Zimmerman 3B M. Holliday l
M. Morse LF  A. Craig 1b
A.LaRoche 1B Y. Molina c
I. Desmond SS D. Freese 3b
D. Espinosa 2B D. Descalso 2b
K. Suzuki C P. Kozma ss
G.Gonzalez P A. Wainwright p

First Inning!

Very routine first inning for Wainwright, who showcases his nutso curveball with two strikeouts book ending a Bryce Harper ground out. Wainwright loves his curveball like Carlos Beltran loves every other career post-season at bat save the one against Wainwright.

Gio Gonzalez, not Stephen Strasburg, gets the first two CRADS quickly but walks Matt Holliday. After falling behind, he coaxes a fly ball to straightaway centerfield out of Allen Craig to end the inning. Bob Brenly sucks. To the second!

Second Inning

Rough going for Adam Wainwright. The Fippingest inning of all sees Waino walk the leadoff man Adam Laroche then going strikeout, single, strikeout then single means his Cardinals now trail the Nats 1-0!

Wainwright compounds matters by walking the opposing pitcher, Gio Gonzalez. Ugh. Loading the bases and Jayson Werth at the plate makes Davey Johnson look like a genius for hitting Werth leadoff. Until he grounds out to end the inning. Davey Johnson is a bum!

Gio Gonzalez joins Wainwright in his futile search for the strike zone. Gio walks Yadier Molina, who is the greatest baseball player Bob Brenly’s eyes have ever seen. Did you know ole Bob used to be a catcher? IT IS TRUE, HE WAS!

Gio continues missing up in the zone, walking second baseman David Descalso. Cue the bunts, they will come fast and furious now.

JUST THROW A STRIKE, GIO!

Gio Gonzalez is tripping balls. He has now walked five batters and threw a wild pitch that cashed the tying run. Gio just walked his opposite number to load the bases. Things are getting ugly, friends. Jon Jay gets a strike and puts it in play, driving a fly ball deep enough to cash Descalso from third with the go-ahead run. 2-1 CRADS!

Gio Gonzalez ends out long second inning nightmare thanks to a Beltran fly out to center, just a few tosses shy of 40 pitches later. Ugh. Time for some barely responsible hindsight reporting.

Third Inning!

Here come the shadows, where deepest cliche creeps! Warning, the venerable/doddering baseball men calling this game will be unable to speak of anything else for the next three innings.

Wainwright loves his curve, using to strike Bryce Harper out for the first out in the third. He isn’t afraid to double up with it while still going to the two-seamer in what would otherwise be breaking ball counts (via Brooks Baseball)

Conversely, Gio is more traditional, using his fastball heavily when he falls behind. Here is heat map of Gio’s day so far.

Much better from Gio, getting the Cardinals in order. The Nats hurler fell behind Molina 3-0 but escapes unscathed. Consider that a recurring theme for this afternoon. 2-1 Cards headed to the fourth!

Fourth Inning

Adam Wainwright is really good. Seven strikeouts through four innings with a truckload of swinging strikes, mostly with his curve. Let’s go ahead and label is a “plus pitch.” Edgy stuff.

THE SHADOWZZZZZZZZZZZZ get their day in the sun, so to speak.

Not all no-hitters are created equal. When you are losing and walking the ballpark, it probably isn’t something worth mentioning. And now it is over.

Gio Gonzalez, who is no longer walking the ballpark, works around the aforementioned single with a strikeout and double play. Efficiency is the new inefficiency.

Fifth Inning

Brenly and Stockton shower Bryce Harper with praise without actually mentioning any of the important things he does well. A dirty uniform trumps skills, we’re told. Speaking of dirty, time for something unfair.

Unfair like the curveball Adam Wainright used to K Bryce Harper. The ball squirted away from Molina behind the plate so Jayson Werth, who singled to lead off the inning.

Wainwright just dominating the Nationals with his curve here in the fifth. Back-to-back strikeouts with the big hook, he’s up to 9Ks with the hammer doing the heavy lifting. Lots of 1-1 fastballs, much to my surprise/delight. An Adam LaRoche groundout ends the top half of the fifth, 2-1 CRADS.

Lather. Whiff. Repeat. Adam’s Uncle Charlie COMING AT YA!

Some satellite troubles from TBS. Too many Mama’s Family re-runs clogging up the works, I guess. What have we missed? MOAR WALKS! Gio walks Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran, the walk to Beltran rating high on the “horseshit call” scale. The shadows are blamed, acquitting the umpire of anything resembling blame. Stirrings in the Nats bullpen as Gio is over 100 pitches and has seven GD walks.

Wow. Badassery or insanity? Gio struggles with his control AGAIN, falling behind Matt Holliday before running the count full. Mike Matheny, not content to let one of the best hitters in baseball just do his thing, sends the runners on the payoff pitch. Holliday swings through a fastball but Jay slides in just ahead of Zimmerman’s tag. Runners on second and third with two out for Allen Craig, who pops out to end the threat. Gio Gonzalez is made of MAGIC! Or put more charitably…

Sixth Inning!

Wainwright may be mowing down the Nats but his pitch count marches on. A leadoff single to Mike Morse gets Lance Lynn up in the bullpen. Not a bad problem to have if you practice CRADCORE. Lynn made great contributions to the cXc World Series run then coolly stepped in to make 29 starts of 3.49 FIP baseball. Gulp.

Another strikeout, the third of the day for Danny Espinosa. Guess what pitch Wainwright threw to get the K on the board?

Wainwright loses Kurt Suzuki and that’s the end of his day. Incredible performance from Little Carp. 10 strikeouts, six hits and three walks scattered over 5 2/3 innings. He leaves with his team in the lead, Lance Lynn in, please #givelancechants.

LANCE LYNN! After walking pinch hitter “Pinch Hitterson” to load the bases, Lynn blows Jayson Werth away in an ugly beard-on-beard crime to end the inning. Lynn the best. Cards lead the Gnats 2-1 headed to the bottom of the sixth.

Jayson Werth checking in with a tidy -.133 WPA after two big Ks with the bases loaded. That’ll leave a mark. Just think: Danny Espinosa is even worse!

Welp. Jayson Werth all but redeems himself, ranging back to the right field fence to make a great leaping catch that may just have taken a home run away from David Descalso! Werth fires the ball back to the infield to keep David Freese from advancing. Huge play.

Werth’s catch saves Craig Stammen’s bacon just in time for Stammen to plunk Pete Kozma. A strikeout of pinch hitter Skip Schumaker ends the threat and the sixth inning.

Seventh Inning!

Edward Mujica comes in for the pinch-hit-for Lance Lynn and gets a hearty assist from Descalso at second base, who was fortuitously not double switched out. Two more grounders and the Nats are done in the top of seven. Stretch time! Your stretch music is Red City Radio, who I think maybe are Cards fans. CRADCORE!

Below are Carlos Beltran’s career playoff numbers before he picked up a walk and single tonight. His single is of the “stung up the middle variety” and comes on the heels of a bad bouncer from Jon Jay which ate up The Roche at first base. Craig Stammen gives this blaze a quick squirt with accelerant by plunking Matt Holliday. The bases, they are loaded.


Natitude? More like LOBitude, amirite? The Nationals escape certain death via Ryan “Houdini” Mattheus. A ground ball to short leads to a force at home then a 5-4-3 means the Nationals are still just down one run. The Cardinals have two runs to show for their 13 base runners. The seventh inning is OVAH!

Wrap your noodle around this one, if you please.

Eighth Inning!

Mitchell Boggs is on to pitch and the Nationals are determined to help him out. After Mike Morse reached on an error and Ian Desmond singled him to third, the Nats gave up an out by bunting but not squeezing??? Boggs then struck Kurt Suzuki out and oh my goodness this is it.

Matheny goes to Marc Rzepczynski ahead of the pitcher’s spot in the Nats order. Davey Johnson counters with Tyler Moore.

TYLER MOORE! The Nats rookie serves a Rzep fastball that was a little too high into right field and two runs score! The Nats now lead 3-2 because oh my god the poles are switching the world is ending. Rzep continues Jayson Werth’s miserable WPA day but the damage is done. Tyler Clippard comes in to face the Cards in the bottom of the 8th. NATS LEAD 3-2.

The Nationals pitchers must prefer pitching from the stretch. David Freese reaches on an error to Ryan Zimmerman, who really does Throw Like That. The Cardinals bunt him to second because of course they did, what else could they possibly do?

Controversy! The inning ends on a HIGHLY dubious strike call on the outside corner. Clippard gets a gift as pinch hitter Matt Carpenter expresses his dismay. Ugly stuff. To the ninth inning!

NINTH INNING

The CRADs do the sensible thing and put closer Jason Motte into the game to protect a one run deficit rather than the one-run lead they had moments ago. Managin’s hard, y’all. (No seriously, it really is.) Motte does what Motte does: runs batters over with reckless abandon. Last hacks for the birds as Drew Storen emerges from the Nats ‘pen.

Davey Johnson opts to leave lumbering Mike Morse in left field with a one-run lead. Jon Jay naturally hits a liner right there, which Morse gamely fields for the first out. Well hit ball but out all the same. Get ready to Blame Beltran!

Blame away! Beltran flies out to shallow center. Looked like maybe a hittable pitch, a fastball up in the zone but Storen survives. All down to Matt Holliday at this point.

It’s over! Storen strikes out Holliday on three pitches, the last a contested check swing call. The Nats somehow manage to allow three dozen base runners and hold on to win. Big night in D.C. as the Nats have, like, super homefield advantage now.


Source: FanGraphs