There is no question that the Washington Nationals still feel the sting of their game five NL Divisional Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. It is the driving force that is their motivation for a return trip to post season play in 2013.
After winning a dramatic game four and forcing a decisive final game, the Nationals jumped out to a 6-0 lead only watch St. Louis slowly come back. Washington took a 7-5 lead into the top of the ninth only to see the Cardinals score four runs and win 9-7. The loss sent a capacity crowd at Nationals Park home disappointed as a magical season came to an end.
For those who were a part of it, the loss to St. Louis still lingers. Nationals closer Drew Storen was called on to get the final outs in the ninth and could not. He took the defeat hard and blamed himself. It was not until fellow closer Tyler Clippard got him to take a vacation that Storen began to move on. At Washington’s recent fan fest, Storen said that the only thing that will make losing to the Cardinals go away is getting back on the mound and pitching.
Manager Davey Johnson has been in baseball for almost 50 years. He has felt the sting of bitter defeat as a player and manager. Johnson was a member of the 1969 Baltimore Orioles team that lost the World Series to the New York Mets. He was manager of a Mets team that was upset by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1988 NL Championship Series. At age 70, Johnson has decided to manage the Nationals for one more year. Leaving as a champion may not be his main motivation, but it is definitely one of them.
Johnson and General Manager Mike Rizzo would also like to win, because of the criticism that they took for shutting down ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg last season and not using him in the playoffs. There are many who feel that Strasburg could have been the difference in Washington winning or losing to St. Louis. Critics of the move felt then and now that Rizzo and Johnson made the wrong decision. They have had all off season to crow about it.
As for the rest of the team, those who experienced last season were disappointed with the ending, but feel it was a learning experience which will translate into future success. Each man feels that they were only one hit, one run, one out away from advancing to the NL Championship Series. With more hard work and a little luck, maybe things will be different this summer.
Though the loss to St. Louis still stings, it will be the driving force behind the Nationals quest for a title in 2013.