Since the Nats are in the World Series, have two wins under their belt and everyone is all cheerful and happy, I guess we can now talk about a game played in 2012.
Yes, THAT game.
If you want to rank the games from top to bottom in terms of the ones that inflicted the most pain on fans, players and coaches, it’s at the top. Numero Uno.
Game 5 of the 2012 National League Divisional Series between the Washington Nationals and the St. Louis Cardinals. The game that shall never be spoken of. The game that turned Pete Kozma’s name into an obscenity for thousands of Nationals fans.
The most disappointed I’ve ever been as a sports fan.
Certainly if you follow sports long enough, you’re going to experience disappointing losses. But this one was no ordinary loss. The Nats came within one pitch – five different times – of winning the game. This wasn’t Lucy pulling the football away from Linus just as he tried to kick it. This was Lucy pulling the ball away, then stabbing Linus in the heart with a rusty icepick a dozen times while he lay helpless on the ground. Then kicking HIM.
That the game happened on a Friday night, only 24 hours after arguably the best moment ever in Nationals history - when Jayson Werth hit a 3-2 pitch after fouling off seven other offerings into the outfield stands for a walkoff, game-winning home run off the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn - just made it all sting that much worse.
I remember all this not only because this week’s World Series and that 2012 game represent the highs and lows of being a Nats fan, but also because it appears fate is smiling nicely on the only two players still with the Nats that played that night.
Those two players – Ryan Zimmerman and Kurt Suzuki – have both hit home runs in the World Series. The night in 2012, both also had really good games, so 2019 is in some measure a payback to both of them. Zimmerman, in fact, made the last out of the 2012 game, then scored the Nats first-ever World Series run, hitting a home run in his first at bat.
Zimmerman had staked the Nats to a 3-0 lead in the first inning in 2012, as Jayson Werth doubled off Adam Wainwright, Bryce Harper tripled him home, then Zimmerman homered. In the third, Harper would homer, Zimmerman would double and Mike Morse would hit a home run and it was 6-0. Wainwright was driven from the game. It seemed over.
Suzuki, meanwhile, would get 3 hits in his four at bats. Even after the Nats lead shrunk to 6-5, Suzuki’s third hit scored Adam LaRouche in the 8th for a huge insurance run and a 7-5 lead. All that needed to happen was for Drew Storen to get three outs in the ninth.
He gave up a double to Carlos Beltran, but then it seemed as if that would not matter. Matt Holliday swung at a first pitch and grounded out to move Beltran to third. Storen worked the count to 2-2 on Allen Craig, Craig fouled off the next pitch, and then Storen recorded the strikeout.
One more out to go.
It looked imminent. Yadier Molina fouled off his fourth pitch from Storen to make it 2-2. One more strike is all it would have taken. Storen threw ball 3. Then ball 4. Runners were now on first and third.
David Freese was up next for the Cardinals. He fouled off a pitch, took one for a ball, then fouled off another. The count was 1-2 and the Cards were down to their last strike. Storen wasted a pitch to see if he could get Freese to swing at a ball out of the strike zone, but followed that up with ball 3, and then ball 4 to load the bases.
Now it was getting uncomfortable.
Daniel Descalso would swing at the first pitch and drive a ground ball past the shortstop to drive in 2 runs and tie the score. Kozma took two called strikes, and hope seemed to be returning for the Nats, but Kozma lined a single to right to make it 9-7.
In the blink of an eye, it was over. Werth, Harper and Zimmerman went down in order. Werth took two strikes and flied out. Harper struck out on three pitches. Zimmerman popped a 1-2 pitch to the second baseman.
A defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.
In one of his ever playful moments, F.P. Santangelo posted a picture on social media of himself in front of the Lincoln Memorial as the playoffs were starting. The caption was that instead of fourscore and seven years ago, the team should score four and forget about what happened seven years ago.
The team has scored 4 or more in just about every playoff game since.
Now, FP, I believe I can finally forget about seven years ago.