Alright, let’s get right to it. Now that the Washington Nationals have been eliminated from post season play by the St. Louis Cardinals everyone is going to bash them for sitting ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg after he pitched 159 1/3 innings. For some, no matter how you slice it the Nationals were wrong and it cost them the series.
The truth is Washington lost to the world champions of professional baseball. Just like the Atlanta Braves did in their wildcard play-in game. Remember that one?
It was the game where the genius Braves sent Kris Medlen to the mound against St. Louis with their season on the line. You know him as the kid who had Tommy John surgery like Strasburg, but was held back early in the season so he would be available for post season play. How did that work out for Atlanta?
First they lost the division to Washington while Strasburg pitched and Medlen didn’t. By the time Medlen began pitching regularly Strasburg had given the Nationals a big enough lead in the NL East that the Braves couldn’t catch them. This forced Atlanta into a one game play-in with St. Louis. No one should want to play the Cardinals in a winner take all match-up.
The Braves learned the hard way. Despite having Medlen they lost to St. Louis 6-3 and went home early. It does not matter whether Medlen pitched well enough to win or not. Atlanta lost. Just like they have done every post season they’ve been in but one since 1991.
At least the Nationals gave themselves five chances to beat the Cardinals. They even held a lead in the series after winning game one. The Nationals were ahead of St. Louis 6-0 in game five before losing their lead in the top of the ninth. It was a crushing defeat.
Washington is not the only team the Cardinals have done this to. Ask the 2011 Braves whether they remember what St. Louis did to them. The Cardinals only chased Atlanta down after trailing them by 10 1/2 games in late August.
Ask the Philadelphia Phillies about St. Louis. They had the Cardinals two games to one in the NL Divisional Series. The Phillies only needed one win in two home games to win the series. They never got it. St. Louis won both games in Philadelphia and advanced to the NL championship series.
The Texas Rangers found out about the Cardinals in game six of the World Series. Texas had the championship in their grasp up three games to two. St. Louis third baseman David Freese tied the series with an extra inning walk off home run. Less than 24 hours later, the Cardinals walked off as world’s champions.
Before criticizing Nationals manager Davey Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo for pulling the plug on Strasburg people need to be realistic. It is going to take a heck of a ball club to beat the Cardinals.
Whoever it is will need more than a Stephen Strasburg to do it.