ST. LOUIS — The Washington Nationals spent most of their first playoff game doing plenty of things that could’ve led to a loss. But they walked out of Busch Stadium Sunday evening knowing they did those things and still hold a 1-0 lead in the National League Division Series.
Game 2 is at 4:37 p.m. (eastern) and we have a host of coverage in today’s Washington Times to keep you busy until then, so here are some quick links:
Tyler Moore’s two-run single helps Nats edge Cards in Game 1: A few hours before he’d start the first major league playoff game of his life, Ian Desmond leaned on the dugout railing and pondered the question of how much experience mattered in the postseason. The Washington Nationals, of course, have very little. And the reigning 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals are rich with it. Desmond recalled a quote he had seen recently that seemed apt. “The ark,” he said, “was built by an amateur. The Titanic was built by a professional.” In the Nationals’ 3-2 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday, they didn’t need playoff experience to do what they did. They didn’t need to reach into their own annals of postseason history to overcome a wild starting pitcher and missed opportunities aplenty in a taut first game of the National League Division Series. They relied on three hits from their unfazed shortstop, a clutch two-run single by a rookie bench player and a right-handed reliever with zero games of playoff experience getting out of a bases-loaded jam with two pitches. Read the full game story here, including all about Tyler Moore and Ryan Mattheus’ heroics.
After 79 years, Nationals represent a ‘lifetime dream realized’ - Under a cloudless sky that whipped cold wind into a sea of red, the end arrived at 2:08 p.m. local time. Seventy-nine years to the day separated Washington from Major League Baseball’s postseason. Thirteen presidents and two franchises departing the city and 28,855 days since the last postseason pitch struck out Joe Kuehl of the Senators to end the 1933 World Series in the 10th inning. Seventy-nine years since Senators’ player-manager Joe Cronin’s prediction that bigger and better season awaited Washington sputtered, instead, to baseball purgatory. White towels whirled through Busch Stadium on Sunday afternoon as Adam Wainwright’s 92-mph pitch to Jayson Werth sank out of the strike zone. The wait ended as the Washington Nationals’ Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals began. “A lifetime dream realized,” read the handwritten sign held aloft by one Nationals supporter along the third base line. “IN baseball playoffs.” Nathan Fenno took in the scene Sunday. Read the full story here.
A wild day turns out OK for Gio Gonzalez: The season in which the Washington Nationals left-hander rolled up 21 victories that pushed him into contention for the Cy Young award veered outside the strike zone Sunday. Way outside. Gonzalez fought through seven walks — his most since June 11, 2011 with the Oakland Athletics — but somehow managed to keep the Nationals in Game 1 of the division series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.Read the full story from Nathan Fenno here.
Doing what ‘we do well’ enough for Nationals to win: The Nationals treated the NLDS opener like a midsummer game in Houston or Pittsburgh, just another chance to keep proving themselves. The evidence on this occasion was a 3-2 victory, courtesy of rookie Tyler Moore’s pinch-hit single in the eighth inning. Earlier that day, Johnson joked about holding a big pregame gathering: “If I had a meeting, they would think I’m panicking or something. It’s not my first rodeo.” Read Deron Snyder’s full column here.
Jayson Werth compensated for bat with glove, Drew Storen gets his reward, hitters battle shadows: Jayson Werth knows better than any Washington Nationals player that your chances in the postseason are finite. A lot of times, there isn’t a tomorrow if you don’t come through today. When Werth struck out with the bases loaded to end the top of the sixth inning, the second time in Sunday’s game he had stranded three men to end a scoring chance, he could only hope for another shot. It came quickly, in the field rather than at the plate. With a man on first in the bottom of the sixth, and the Cardinals leading 2-1, Daniel Descalso sent a high fly ball to right that Werth initially didn’t see, the afternoon sun obscuring its path. Even the Busch Stadium crowd seemed startled when the ball kept carrying, the roar delayed as Werth backed up to the fence. Just in time, he got his bearings and leaped at the wall to pull a two-run homer back into the park. Read more from Marc Lancaster’s post-game notebook here.
Jordan Zimmermann unfazed entering his first playoff start: Monday will be an entirely new experience for the right-hander. But if he didn’t tell you that, you’d hardly know it from his unflappable demeanor. Which is one reason his teammates have no fear that he’ll be rattled by the situation. Read the full story here.
A ‘sense of relief’ for Nats closer Drew Storen: Pain has followed Drew Storen’s season, thanks to April surgery to remove a bone chip from the closer’s right elbow. The surgery sidelined Storen until July and made his save Sunday, punctuated with a shout as he struck out Matt Holliday swinging to end the game, even sweeter. In two minutes, the always-enthusiastic Storen repeatedly described the afternoon as “awesome” and “unbelievable.” “It makes all those brutal, boring mornings in Viera, Fla, in April watching these guys do what they did worth it,” Storen said. “It’s fun to watch but it’s also tough to watch. … I said, ‘I’m going to do this right, I’m going to come back and I want to contribute and be a part of this.” Read the full story by Nathan Fenno here.
Nationals playoff game ends long wait for Charlie Slowes: Shortly before calling the first pitch in Nationals playoff history, Charlie Slowes described Sunday to his listeners as “a day that Nationals fans and players and owners have dreamt about.” He left someone out: himself. “My wife called me [Saturday] on the way to the ballpark and all of a sudden she got real quiet and I said, ‘Are you there? Hello? Hello?’ And she was crying,” Slowes said before the game. “I said, ‘Are you all right? Why are you crying?’ She said, ‘I’m just happy for you.’”Read the full story by Marc Lancaster here.
Nationals batterymates envisioned first playoff experience in different uniforms: After he finished with his media responsibilities for the day, and the Nationals’ workout was finished, Kurt Suzuki plopped himself into one of the comfortable chairs in the visitors’ clubhouse at Busch Stadium Saturday afternoon and turned on the Oakland A’s game. Sunday afternoon, Suzuki will catch Gio Gonzalez for the 85th time in his career. He will take the left-hander to the mound and guide him through his the first playoff start of his career. He’ll do all of that for the Washington Nationals. Not the Athletics. “Not the Athletics,” Suzuki said with a laugh Saturday, pondering the fact that the catcher and the pitcher who spent the previous four years working together for the A’s will start their first playoff games together for the Nationals.Read the full story here.
Cardinals react to Game 1 NLDS loss to Nationals: The Cardinals’ clubhouse was subdued following the Nationals’ 3-2 win in the NLDS opener, but as more than one player pointed out, they’ve been in this situation before. Last October, the Cardinals survived two elimination games against the Phillies in the first round and again against the Rangers in the World Series to win the championship, so they know there’s a long way to go. Here are some thoughts from the home clubhouse following Game 1. Read the full story here.