A Nationals fan can’t bear to watch as the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate their 9-7 series clinching victory over the Nats on October 12, 2012 at Nationals Park.
Two out of three ain’t bad, but two out of nine is an entirely different story altogether.
The Washington Nationals’ 2-7 home playoff record since 2012 is a sore spot for all who wear the curly W and while there is hope the team’s fortunes will change beginning this evening, the pain of the seven losses lingers over Nationals Park like a dense fog.
While this may be akin to ripping a band-aid off of an open wound, we’re going to look at at the seven losses and rank them in terms of the pain they inflicted on the Nats and their followers.
#7- Game 3 2012 NLDS- St. Louis 8 Washington 0
The first playoff baseball game in Washington DC in generations was a dud. The Nats split the first two games of the series at Busch Stadium, and hoped to gain control of the series before the home crowd on a nice fall afternoon in the nation’s capital.
Instead, things went south quickly for the home team. The experienced Cardinals scored four runs off of Edwin Jackson in the first two innings and never looked back en route to an easy 8-0 victory. The young Nats had seven hits, including three by Ian Desmond, but left 11 men on base as they were whitewashed by Cris Carpenter and three Cards’ relievers.
#6- Game 1 2014 NLDS- San Francisco 3 Washington 2
The favored Nats couldn’t score off of Giants’ starter Jake Peavy and by the time the Nats got solo homers by Bryce Harper and Asdrubal Cabrera off of old friend Hunter Strickland in the bottom of the seventh, they were down 3-0.
The Nats threatened to tie the score or even take the lead in the bottom of the eighth, but Sergio Romo struck out Desmond and retired Harper on a ground out to end the threat. When Santiago Casilla retired the Nats in order in the bottom of the ninth, the resourceful Giants had taken control of the series.
#5- Game 1 2016 NLDS- Los Angeles 4 Washington 3
A Max Scherzer- Clayton Kershaw mound match-up had the makings of an epic contest, but the visitors struck for four runs off of Scherzer in the first two innings to take a 4-0 lead. Washington battled back off of Kershaw to pull within 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth, but the Dodgers bullpen kept the Nats scoreless over the final four innings to secure the win.
#4- Game 1 2017 NLDS- Chicago Cubs 3 Washington 0
Wasting Stephen Strasburg’s excellent start, the Nats’ bats went flat against unflappable Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs bullpen as the visitors prevailed 3-0. The atmosphere was electric at Nationals Park over the first five innings as Strasburg dominated the tough Cubs lineup, but a few sixth inning mistakes made the 41,000 plus in the ballpark think “here we go again”.
#3= Game 2 2014 NLDS- San Francisco 2 Washington 1
Say what you will about last night’s disappointing loss to the Cubs, but at least it was over relatively quickly. In game two of the 2014 NLDS, the Nats’ demise took an excruciating 18 innings and featured a ninth inning that remains a sore spot for followers of the team.
With Jordan Zimmermann cruising and one out away from a shutout win that would have evened the series, manager Matt Williams replaced Zimmermann with closer Drew Storen after Joe Panik coaxed a walk to keep the visitors’ hopes alive. Buster Posey greeted Storen with a single, and Pablo Sandoval followed with a double to left that scored Panik to tie the score at 1-1. Only an exceptional relay throw from Harper to Desmond to Wilson Ramos kept Posey from scoring to give San Francisco the lead.
In retrospect, perhaps it would have been better if that run had scored. The next nine innings featured frustration of the highest level as the Nationals time and time again failed to do anything at the plate. When Brandon Belt homered deep into the right field stands to give the Giants a 2-1 lead in the 18th inning, the Nationals’ fate was all but sealed. Strickland worked around a two out walk to secure the win for the Giants.
#2- Game 5 2016 NLDS- Los Angeles 4 Washington 3
The Nats led 1-0 heading into the top of the seventh and with Scherzer on the mound, things were looking good. But then the top of the seventh happened. Los Angeles put four runs on the board to drive Scherzer out of the game and take the air out of the crowd at Nationals Park. Washington rallied to pull within one run by scoring twice in the seventh, but Kenley Jansen and surprise reliever Kershaw kept Washington scoreless over the final two frames to give the Dodgers the series win.
#1- Game 5 2012 NLDS- St. Louis 9 Washington 7
Even some five years later, the memories of that fateful Friday night in 2012 are too painful to go into in any detail. The loss of a six run lead, the ninth inning that seemed to be scripted by the Marquis de Sade, the hit by Pete Bleeping Kozma and the funeral atmosphere once the Nationals were shut down in the bottom of the ninth all linger in the minds of Nationals fans to this day.