It’s been said time and time again, but 2012 was a magical year for the Washington Nationals. Every best-case scenario played out as Washington paced the NL to win the NL East at 98-64.
Going into the playoffs, Washington was expected to breeze through even without Stephen Strasburg, who they shut down due to a post-Tommy John surgery innings limit. With that said, Washington went into the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals expected to dominate the series in all categories and walk into the NLCS ready to go to the World Series.
Obviously, that did not happen, as Washington looked like a deer in the headlights for most of the series, losing lopsided game after lopsided game. The series was so bad, in fact, that Strasburg’s replacement Ross Detwiler was Washington’s best starter, turning in a solid Game 4 start that Washington would win on Jayson Werth‘s walkoff home run which will live on for years.
Of course, Game 5 was a completely different story, as Washington got out to a big lead, and as they have done so many times before, went into an offensive hibernation, allowing the Cardinals to chip away and eventually win in the ninth off of Drew Storen. He had some incredibly close pitches go St. Louis’ way, though he did allow a four-run comeback.
Needless to say, this shell-shocked Washington as the dugout looked as though they had seen a ghost, staring out at the Cardinals celebrating on their field one night after easily the biggest win in the team’s young history.
So, is 2013 a carryover of that shock, and is Game 5 still to blame for Washington’s poor play?
It could be, given the fact that the offense has been more like what we saw from the fourth inning on in Game 5 as the bats have been unable to support almost every single one of their pitchers, who have all battled some sort of injury, with three of them all having to spend time on the DL at various points.
What a lot of people seem to forget is how young Washington still is and that young teams go through growing pains, sometimes suffering letdown seasons after a big one because they expect that good play will just happen.
2013 may be the wake-up call Washington needs to go into 2014 ready to win everyday and play up to potential. They still could do this in 2013, but it will probably be a case of too little, too late.