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?


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.)

Comments (16)

  1. Here. Not hear.

    And, tonight, as last night, was just crazy. First rounds are always the best. Just so much going on.

  2. Well, I’m rooting for the Cardinals now. You can’t beat those intangibles (or Carlos Beltran).

  3. The Giants are toast.

  4. But the likelihood that Strasburg and Boras get their massive payday has been maybe, we’re not sure, marginally increased. And that’s what’s really important.

  5. I fell asleep when Molina was at the plate in the 9th. Dammit.

  6. People have been quick to hold up Texas and the Rays as model franchises of late but over the last 13 years St. Louis has made a pretty strong case for other teams to look at. Hard to argue with their record, 3 WS appearances with 2 Championships and now their 4th appearance in the NCLS. Throw in 3 loses in the LDS and that’s 8 out of 13 years in the playoffs. They’ve done it all with a payroll that’s ranked only in the top 5 once (2005), while generally falling in the range between 8th and 15th since 2000. Obviously scouting and player development plays an equally large part in their success as well.

    Sure 3 of those 8 appearances have been as at the Wild Card but with the playoffs being a a crap shoot for the most part getting there is half the battle and they’ve certainly proved they’ve got that portion of it down.

    I think as a Jays fan it’s a good team to look to as the chances of the Jays ever spending like the Sox, Yanks or even Angels is a slim one with Rogers as owners. St. Louis spends, but not crazily. Hopefully Rogers can get the Jays to a similar sweet spot in the payroll rankings over the next couple of years.

    • the barves had a run of what…13 years without missing the postseason? they’re still very good – in fact, other than the angels probably the best team that didn’t make the postseason, and always a good team to watch. i bet they wish they could have teixiera trade back. maybe some scouts do know a thing or two about something…who knows

    • Yeah, it’s too bad Rogers is unwilling to ever spend money on free agents like AJ Burnett, BJ Ryan or Frank Thomas.

  7. Can someone please write an article about what a colossal asshole Scott Carson is … like a special postseason Book of Moron or something. His article today brings every cliche to bear about battle-hardened veterans beating young upstarts because of grit.

    The Cards were down to their last strike – twice. Any team that reaches that point in a game has in essence failed … all their skills, grit, planning and tactics have failed. You are left standing with dumb luck, and the roughly 30% chance that in any at bat, the hitter will not get out, or the somewhere around 20% chance that the hitter hits.

    You throw the dice … you get lucky. You throw them again, and again, and keep getting lucky. Like rolling two sixes with dice again and again, it’s not going to happen very often, but it WILL happen, once every 15 years or so in MLDS games apparently.

    Add into that mix a closer who is pitching for the third straight day, and who had said something like “I’ll find the strength somewhere” (hardly a confidence builder) if he was called on to pitch again, and those odds get a bit better.

    The most ridiculous thing about Carson’s cliche-ridden bullshit? The guy who won it for the Cardinals was a callow 24 year old with 50 games in the big leagues. The game was tied by a 26 year old with hardly greater pedigree. Nobody counts on those guys to win anything on any team ever – but sometimes they just do.

    And it’s why the postseason is awesome, and grit is only useful on roads.

    • Having said all that – Harper’s final AB was just about the worst mess of ‘trying too hard’ I’ve ever seen, so if ‘grit’ means ‘not playing like a mentalist’, then yeah, whatever.

    • “The Cards were down to their last strike – twice. Any team that reaches that point in a game has in essence failed … all their skills, grit, planning and tactics have failed.”

      What a load of bullshit. You haven’t failed until you’ve recorded 27 outs. They clawed back from 6-0 to get into striking distance and gave themselves a chance to win in the last inning. There’s no failure in that. Just because you didn’t lead from the start all game, doesn’t mean you’re tactics failed.

      • Yeah, they clawed their way back to get to a point where only a miracle could save them, that’s what I’m getting at.

        With one more strike, Carson would have been writing an article about how plucky young upstarts were too much for a veteran team lacking it’s genius manager and Hall of Fame first baseman of 2011.

        The point I’m making is that neither of those stories would have been true, and ascribing stuff to ‘grit, leadership, spirit’ only does a huge disservice to the talents of the players.

        If ‘grit’ was all you needed, my granny would have played for the Yankees – I’m fairly sure living in London in the Blitz and getting your house blown to smithereens above your head ‘out-grits’ any major league player of the modern era.

        No, what you need to win are obscene amounts of talent and shit-load of luck. Let’s give the credit where it’s due.

        • Talent isn’t the only thing that matters. Especially in the playoffs where everyone is extremely talented. In fact, you could argue that washington was more talented, yet lost.

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