Down to the Last

Today was the first post-season major league game played in the District of Columbia in 79 years. The Nationals, mindful of the occasion, performed all the propitiatory rites worthy of an Opening Day.

The ceremonies came to a climax as Frank Robinson, manager of the 2005 Nats that returned baseball to the Capital City, threw out the first pitch to Ian Desmond, to thunderous applause.

These rites concluded, the Nats proceeded to pay tribute to Frank Robinson by re-enacting the very worst scenes of Robinson’s tenure, to the horror of the announced crowd of some 45 thousand.

Edwin Jackson went 5 innings, surrendering 4 runs on 6 hits, striking out 4, and walking only one. On any other day, even a 4 run deficit would not have been too much for the 2012 Nats to overcome. That ball club had averaged 4.5 runs per game.

But this was no ordinary day. The nats had a formidable opponent in the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter, who scattered six hits in his five and two-thirds innings, allowing no runs. Again and again, Nats hitters lofted balls into the air, only to be caught. Eleven Nationals were stranded on base.

Your Correspondent suffered his most acute case of déjà vu during one particularly harrowing sequence in the 7th. As rookie reliever Christian Garcia issued a bases-loaded walk to Alan Craig, scoring Carlos Beltran, it was almost possible to believe that the clock had been turned back to the bleakest days at the very end of Frank Robinson’s managerial tenure.

What began as a trickle of fans leaving in the 7th became a torrent in the 8th, as a long line of dejected, red-clad supporters deserted Nats Park. The remaining faithful in the upper deck could see the gloomy column stretch from the center field gate down the whole length of Half Street.

By the time Nats closer Drew Storen appeared in the top of the ninth to the stunned silence of the remaining faithful, the rout was complete. The stands looked as if they had been bombarded with grapeshot as their erstwhile inhabitants fled headlong towards the exits. The nats park faithful managed a faint roar for Jayson Werth’s two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth. Bryce Harper then struck a line drive right into the glove of the waiting John Jay, stranding Werth yet again.

Tomorrow, the Nationals’ Annus mirabilis—a year that saw them win ninety-eight games—will come down to perhaps its final twenty seven outs. It is this writer’s sincere hope that tomorrow’s contest is as reflective of the ball club’s present success as today’s rout was evocative of its past futility.

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