For the first time since Major League Baseball went to the Division Series format, all four series will go to a decisive, winner-take-all fifth game. For the Nationals and the Cardinals, it’ll be at 8:37 p.m. Friday night at Nationals Park. Gio Gonzalez will pitch for the Nationals, Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals.
And how they got there? Well that’ll take you some time to get through. From their best pitching of the series to an anemic offense that was saved when Jayson Werth led off the ninth inning with a six-minute, 13-pitch at-bat, ending with what he felt was the best postseason home run of his career.
There’s enough baseball coverage in Friday’s Washington Times to tide you over until the festivities renew down on South Capitol Street Friday night, so without further ado, here’s a quick-link guide to all of it:
Jayson Werth’s walk-off homer keeps the Nationals’ season alive: The ball took flight like a missile, zipping into the crisp fall air that settled over the nation’s capital on this October Thursday night. It sailed into the visitors’ bullpen in left field. It clanked with a thud off the back wall. It carried with it the hopes of a team, of a fan base, of an entire city hoping the team’s season would live at least one more day. As it landed, Jayson Werth’s home run unleashed a celebration inside Nationals Park unlike any the District had seen at a ballpark in almost 80 years. Werth flung his bat into the air and pointed to the Nationals’ dugout as his teammates poured over the railing and fireworks exploded. He rounded third base, gave double low-fives to coach Bo Porter and sent his batting helmet flying. He leapt into home plate, into the arms of his teammates, and they stomped on it together. Their 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Division Series ensured them one more day. Read the full recap of Thursday’s wild game, including clubhouse reaction, here.
With the season riding on his left arm, Ross Detwiler rose to the occasion: By the time Ross Detwiler returned to the Nationals’ clubhouse Thursday night, 83 text messages were waiting. That’s what happened when the left-hander, yanked from the starting rotation in May as an inconsistent career continued, ended up on the mound at Nationals Park with the season on the line. Over a career-high 104 pitches, he did what three more-heralded members of the Nationals’ rotation couldn’t in the series. He even quieted talk about the playoff rotation spot he occupied in place of shut-down ace Stephen Strasburg.Read Nathan Fenno’s full story on the Nationals’ left-hander here.
Jordan Zimmermann excels in relief: An uncharacteristically emotional Jordan Zimmermann looked like he was in his natural habitat as a reliever, working velocity and variation to perfection. He was throwing a fastball that hit 97 mph, a slider at 91 and a curveball at 81, and all three pitches were working. Guns blazing, Zimmermann kept the ball down and let it rip. He struck out Pete Kozma, Kyle Lohse and Jon Jay, igniting the crowd with a fist-pump after the final strikeout.Read Steve Whyno’s full story about the Nationals’ starter’s dazzling first major league relief appearance here.
Teddy Roosevelt, Mark DeRosa and ‘The Man in the Arena’: Mark DeRosa read the speech, the excerpt from Roosevelt’s “Citizenship In A Republic” known to most as “The Man in the Arena,” over the boom box microphone in his locker. He read the words slowly, and with sincerity, as the Nationals prepared for Game 4 of their National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. They needed to win to keep their season alive. DeRosa wanted to do his part to make sure they knew how important it was. “That’s a quote I’ve always gone back to,” he said after their 2-1 walk-off victory. “I go to that a lot, I really do. I’ve done it since college. I like it because people think they know, but they have no idea what we’re thinking from pitch to pitch. With our backs against the wall I wanted to say something that brought us together, a little band of brothers. Go out and fight. See what happens. I felt it was fitting. It fires me up when I read it.” Read the full story on the Nationals’ pre-game here.
DALY: Behold the beauty of sports: The beauty of these games we obsess about is that anything can happen. Raul Ibanez can pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth inning and hit a game-tying home run for the New York Yankees. (And follow that with a game-winning one in the 12th.) The Cincinnati Reds can take two on the road in San Francisco, then blow the series by losing three in a row at home. And that’s just one 24-hour period in the life of the baseball playoffs. The Washington Nationals needed one of those Anything Can Happen moments in Game 4 of their National League Division Series on Thursday. Backs to the wall against the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals, they needed their No. 5 starter, Ross Detwiler, to hang with the Cards’ ace, Kyle Lohse. They needed the improbable to trump the predictable. They needed the law of averages to be temporarily suspended. They needed … well, you know what they needed. They needed sports to be sports.Read Dan Daly’s full column here.
Gio Gonzalez had a feeling the NLDS would get to Game 5: Before Game 4 of the National League Division Series, Gio Gonzalez put the onus on teammates to make a statement that “there will be a Game 5.” Apparently, the man who was set to pitch in that potential Game 5 for the Washington Nationals was confident about getting the chance all along. “Gio was telling me days ago: ‘We’re going five, we’re going five, Skip. Don’t worry about it, we’re going Game 5,’ ” manager Davey Johnson recalled. Read Steve Whyno’s full notebook from Thursday here.
SNYDER: Jayson Werth’s game-winner gets rid of all the baggage: The Nats did as he suggested and Jayson Werth capped the effort with an exclamation point Thursday, driving his 13th pitch from reliever Lance Lynn into the visitors’ bullpen for a walk-off homer and 2-1 victory. A sign held aloft in the stands expressed every Nats’ fan thought at the moment: “Werth It.” Read Deron Snyder’s full column here.
Experienced Cardinals turn the page to NLDS Game 5: The visitors’ clubhouse at Nationals Park was a quiet place Thursday night. The energy of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 8-0 win the night before had vanished as catcher Yadier Molina bristled past reporters toward the exit. The few players standing at their lockers were serious and stern. Beats from familiar rap tunes echoed in the background. Minutes earlier, the stadium outside those clubhouse walls had erupted as Jayson Werth hit a walk-off home run on the thirteenth pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Washington Nationals a 2-1 win and knot the National League Division Series at 2-2. It was the toughest loss imaginable for the reigning World Series champion Cardinals, who were perhaps one or two big hits away from advancing to the National League Championship Series for the second consecutive year. Read Tom Schad’s full story from the visitors’ side here.
Ian Desmond’s catch shouldn’t be ‘overlooked’: Following eight straight outs by strikeout, the Washington Nationals’ bullpen was rolling. Then Drew Storen needed a little bit of help to finish off the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth inning Thursday night. Shortstop Ian Desmond was there to lend a glove. Pinch hitter Matt Carpenter had a chance to give the Cardinals a lead, hitting the ball into no-man’s land in shallow left field. Pete Kozma would have scored had it dropped in, but Desmond raced over and made a full-extension leap to record the out. Shortly after, Jayson Werth’s homer to lead off the bottom half of the inning gave the Nationals an emotional, 2-1 victory to force a Game 5 in the National League Division Series on Friday night. But it wouldn’t have been possible if not for Desmond’s catch.Read Steve Whyno’s full story here.
Jayson Werth’s teammates react to his walk-off homer: As Ryan Zimmerman noted following Game 4 of the NLDS, Jayson Werth is not and probably never will be a warm, cuddly figure. But there’s no doubt the veteran outfielder has earned a ton of respect from those in the Nationals’ clubhouse, even as he fought through a miserable 2011, and his teammates were thrilled to see Werth end up as the hero Thursday night. Read a sampling of their thoughts on the big moment here.
Frank Howard: Nationals have done ‘marvelous job’ building a winner: Up until this season, Frank Howard represented the post-World War II pinnacle for baseball in Washington, D.C. The man once known as the “Capital Punisher” was the lone star on most of the Senators teams for which he toiled in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s before the franchise decamped for Texas. He was back in town Thursday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 4 of the NLDS and seemed more eager to talk about what the Nationals have going now than reminisce about his Senators days.Read Marc Lancaster’s full story here.
Meet the Nationals’ ‘playoff barber’: A late-night phone call summoned the playoff barber. So, Hugo Tandron — “Juice” or “Hugo Boss” to friends — stood in a tunnel deep under Busch Stadium in St. Louis earlier this week. He wore all black: the ever-present short-sleeve barber’s jacket, shorts and Jordan high-tops. Some of his 100-plus tattoos peeked out. Full sleeves on both arms, a turtleneck of ink around his neck. There hadn’t been time to pack properly for the October chill. The urgent request from Edwin Jackson last Friday night canceled Tandron’s planned vacation to Florida’s west coast and put him on a last-minute flight from Miami to St. Louis. The Washington Nationals, in the city’s first Major League Baseball postseason series in 79 years, needed haircuts. Read Nathan Fenno’s full story on the Nationals’ barber here.
PHOTO GALLERY: The Washington Times photographers were there to capture every electrifying moment from Thursday’s walk-off win. Check out their full gallery here.