There were a whole pile of words written here before. They explained how well the collective bullpens pitched over five games. They detailed how none of the starters really brought their best stuff in this series but the bullpens picked up the slack. How the offenses worked in fits and starts and the Nats managed to squeak out two surprising one-run victories.

Some of the words were written tentatively about the Nationals ability to overcome a very tough Cardinals team. About how the Nats jumped out to a big lead over the defending World Series champions and, after some bending but not breaking by the bullpen, the Nats moved on to the League Championship Series.

All the those words are gone now. They disappeared into the re-write ether. In their place is bewilderment. Amazement over witnessing something for which there are no words. There is only shock.

Down to their last strike…five times. Fighting back to within a single run then coughing up a seemingly crucial insurance run…only to score four times with two outs in their final at bats.

The St. Louis Cardinals are the defending World Series champions. They lost their best player and their head genius. They are still moving on to the LCS. Unstoppable, it seems. The Giants await the Cardinals, a fate I’m sure the West champs do not relish. When not getting huge home runs from Daniel Descalso or game-winning ribbies from noted sociopath Pete Kozma, the Cardinals turn to (arguably) the greatest post season performer probably ever.

Carlos Beltran is not the story but he cannot NOT be the story. Carlos Beltran came to the plate five times during Game Five of the NLDS. He safely reached base five times. He walked twice and started the final rally with a ringing double in the ninth, his second two-base hit of the night.

The Nationals tend to the broken hearts of their fans and press corps. The time required to process the unlikelihood of winning 98 regular season games then leading 6-0 in an elimination game then scratching across an insurance run then being one appealed check swing away cannot be measured in hours or weeks. The resulting fatalistic streaks are sure to run deep and permit a creeping suspicion of anything that even smells like success for an indeterminate amount of time.

The Strasburg Shutdown should take a backseat to the improbability, the insanity that was the end of this game. It won’t but it should. A great season is over in Washington.

Once again, against most if not all odds, the Cardinals move on. Their grit overshadowing their talent. Their determination overwhelming the extreme quality of their ninth inning at bats and the good fortune of a few batted balls. The grit and determination makes them admired but their talent should make them feared – take on the Cardinals at your extreme peril.

The Cliffs of Insanity


Source: FanGraphs

The Most Important Play of the Game

Three different players on the Cardinals managed to contribute more than 25% to their team’s victory. Daniel Descalso not only hit a crucial home run in the 8th inning but knocked the game-tying single off the outstretched arm of Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond. Carlos Beltran, as already noted in 40-point font, reached base all five times he came to the plate.

Pete Kozma, however, provided the decisive blow. His two-run single to right field increased the Cardinals win expectancy by more than 41%. His single wasn’t the prettiest of the night but it sure made the most difference.

The Stupid Thing the Manager Did

Davey Johnson is an easy manager to like. He doesn’t trifle with wonton out gifting and he orders his lineup in an appealing way. His bullpen usage is, or was, harmless enough.

With his back to the wall, Johnson pulled out all the stops. He used Edwin Jackson in the seventh inning of a three-run game. Jackson allowed two hits (one to Beltran, of course) and a walk and a single run. The run seemed innocent enough at the time but, of course, loomed large in the end. Would things be different had Johnson elected to use a legit reliever in that spot?

PS. STRASBURG STRASBURG STRASBURG STRASBURG.

The Shamsky Award

Named after Art Shamsky, who single handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.

After struggling mightily for much of the series, Bryce Harper broke out in a big way. The Nats center fielder become one of a select few group of teenagers to homer in the post-season. Harper tripled in his very next at bat, finishing the game with .139 WPA. I’m sure he’s thrilled.

The Three Stars

1. You, if you watched this game. So long as you aren’t a Nationals fan, watching the incredible drama of this Game 5 surely enriched your life. Or, at the very least, it meant you didn’t go see Here Comes the Boom. You’re ahead either way.

2. Carlos Beltran. Blamed no longer.

3. Drew Storen. Because people are swine and he pitched…well he only really gave up one hard hit ball. No matter how bad he pitched, he doesn’t deserve what is coming to him. Hopefully he bounces back (spoiler: he will.)