Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
It all comes down to Game 5 tonight at Nationals Park.
As was the case for Game 4, Davey Johnson will have an extra arm available in his bullpen: Edwin Jackson. Unlike Game 4, though, Johnson wouldn't use Jackson in a setup role like he did with Jordan Zimmermann. Sounds like the only way Jackson would appear in this game is if it goes extra innings.
Before it ever gets to that point, of course, Gio Gonzalez and Adam Wainwright will take center stage, a rematch of starters from Game 1 in St. Louis and an Aug. 31 encounter here at Nationals Park (a 10-0 blowout win for the Nats). We should have a sense early how both pitchers are going to be, and with the late starting time, there won't be any talk of sun or shadows for this game.
It will, however, be much colder than it's been for any game all season. If you're one of the lucky ones holding tickets, make sure to bundle up. You'll need to with a steady wind blowing in from left field.
Enjoy this game, everyone. You never know when you're going to get to experience another one like it. Plenty of updates and analysis here, as always, throughout...
NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES - GAME 5
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 8:37 p.m. EDT
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), WTEM (980 AM), XM 183
Weather: Clear, 52 degrees, Wind 11 mph in from LF
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
LHP Gio Gonzalez
CF Jon Jay
RF Carlos Beltran
LF Matt Holliday
1B Allen Craig
C Yadier Molina
3B David Freese
2B Daniel Descalso
SS Pete Kozma
RHP Adam Wainwright
HP Alfonso Marquez
1B Ed Hickox
2B Paul Emmel
3B Marvin Hudson
LF Joe West (cc)
RF Jim Joyce
8:39 p.m. -- And we are underway on another electric night at Nationals Park. Great stuff pregame, with Gen. Martin Dempsey (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) removing his jacket to reveal a personalized Nats jersey before throwing out the first pitch. The crowd roared "Gio! Gio!" as Gonzalez walked in from the bullpen. Then everyone roared again as the highlights from last night's win were played on the scoreboard. Nothing left to do now except say ... play ball.
8:47 p.m. -- Three pitches in, and it looked like Gio was still in Game 1 form, falling behind Jon Jay 3-0. But he battled back to get Jay to fly out to center, then after allowing a bloop single to Carlos Beltran struck out Matt Holliday on a devastating curveball and got Allen Craig to fly out to center to end the inning. Seventeen total pitches, 12 strikes, but if you throw out the first three balls, Gio fired 12 of his last 14 pitches for strikes. That's the top of the first he and the Nats needed.
9:00 p.m. -- So, about that question whether it's possible for momentum to carry over from one ballgame to the next ... I'm gonna go ahead and say, yeah, it does. Wow, what a bottom of the first from the Nats. Jayson Werth picked right up where he left off and poked a double down the left-field line to get it started. Bryce Harper then missed his first career homer by a couple of feet, settling instead for an RBI triple off the wall in front of the Red Porch. And then Ryan Zimmerman, as only he can, ordered up a round of hot cortisone shots on this chilly October night for everyone in attendance: 2-run bomb to right-center. Yes, seven pitches into the bottom of the first, the Nats led 3-0, with three extra-base hits. Stunning. This park is absolutely rocking.
9:11 p.m. -- Just when it looked like Gio might get himself into a jam in the top of the second, he battled back. After a one-out single by David Freese, he fought back from a 2-0 count to strike out Daniel Descalso. Then the Nats caught a huge break, with Freese attempting a delayed steal(?!) and getting thrown out to end the inning with Pete Kozma at the plate. Still 3-0 as we go to the bottom of the second.
9:22 p.m. -- A one-out single to right from Kurt Suzuki, who had been hitless since his RBI in Game 1, but he's stranded there as Gonzalez can't get a bunt down and Werth flies out to center. We move to the third...
9:30 p.m. -- Three innings down for Gio, and he's already got four strikeouts and zero walks. At this point five days ago, he had five walks and two strikeouts. I'd say he's rediscovered his groove tonight.
9:46 p.m. -- Sweet. Fancy. Moses. The Nats have taken a 6-0 lead after three innings, knocking Wainwright out of the game. And they did it in style, with Harper crushing his first career postseason homer, then Zimmerman roping another double, then Morse crushing a two-run homer into the left-field bullpen. Harper becomes only the second teenager ever to homer in the postseason, joining Andruw Jones in 1996. (It should be noted Harper will only be a teenager for three more days; he turns 20 on Tuesday.) What a scene here on South Capitol Street. The crowd is bonkers as the Nats open up a 6-0 lead.
10:00 p.m. -- Don't pop the champagne corks quite yet, folks. This one ain't over, and the Cards showed some life in the top of the fourth. After Beltran drew a leadoff walk, Holliday sent a double down the third-base line, bringing home their first run of the night. Gio calmed down, though, and got a big strikeout of Freese with a man on third to end the inning and keep the lead at 6-1.
10:30 p.m. -- Uh-oh, Game 1 Gio has returned. That turned the top of the fifth into a white-knuckle affair, with the lefty walking three batters (one with the bases loaded) and uncorking a run-scoring wild pitch. The Cards didn't score via a base hit, but they did score twice to trim the deficit to 6-3. It could've been much, much worse, though. Gio battled to get Molina to fly out to right to end the inning and strand the bases loaded. His night could be over after only five innings, though, with the Nats now leading by only three runs.
10:32 p.m. -- And with that, I'm handing over the keys to the live game blog to Chase Hughes so I can get started writing my instant game story. Hang in there, everyone...
10:50 p.m. -- Chase here for Mark. Trevor Rosenthal mowed the Nats down in order in the bottom of the fifth with seven different pitches hitting triple digits. He struck out Harper and Zimmerman before getting LaRoche to pop out. Stammen started the seventh for the Nats and gave up a quick single to David Freese. He then got Descalso to line out for the first out. A would-be double play grounder by Kozma was bobbled by Espinosa so Davey had to bring Burnett in for the final out. On to the bottom of the seventh. (UPDATE: should have said bottom of the sixth)
11:03 p.m. -- The Nats get two on in the seventh with two outs. Espinosa got on with a walk (no, really he did) and Suzuki followed with a single. Bernadina came in to pinch-hit for the pitcher and struck out to end the inning. Edwin Jackson will take over in the top of the seventh.
11:15 p.m. -- Jackson got off to a rocky start with a single to Jay and then a double to Beltran. Holliday grounded to Desmond who made the play at first to give the Cardinals a run. Jackson then got Craig to strike out, but then walked Molina to put two men on. Instead of going with Mattheus who was warming up, Davey stuck with Jackson and the move paid off. Jackson struck out Freese on four pitches and we now head to the bottom of the seventh. (For real this time)
11:29 p.m. -- Boggs came in and set the Nats down in order. Werth, Harper, and Zimm put the ball in play but right at Cardinals players. Top of the eighth here we go, Tyler Clippard takes the mound ready to do what he does best. 6-4 Nats still.
11:43 p.m. -- If it wasn't already tense at Nationals Park, Clippard certainly helped. The Nats setup man allowed a leadoff homer to Descalso to make it a one-run game. Three close counts later and he's out of it alive. 6-5 Nats with LaRoche due up in the bottom of the eighth.
11:58 p.m. -- The Nats get a huge insurance run in the eighth. Back-to-back singles by LaRoche and Morse gave them two runners with no outs. But Desmond and Espinosa were retired to leave it up to Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki worked a 2-2 count before hitting a single up the middle to make it 7-5. Drew Storen now in to shut this thing down.
12:20 a.m. -- Disaster in the ninth. Drew Storen allows four runs to give the Cardinals the lead. He began by giving up a double to Beltran, then walking Molina and Freese. Then Descalso hit a single to tie it. Then Kozma hit a single to put to more up on the board. Werth, Harper, Zimm up to fight for the Nationals' 2012 lives.
12:30 p.m. -- The Nationals go down in order, an unbelievable turn of events. The Nationals' season is now over as the Cardinals rush the field. 45,000+ absolutely stunned.