- - Friday, October 13, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As Bryce Harper swung and missed for strike three and the third out bottom of the ninth inning of Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs Thursday night, the clock began on Harper’s final contract year with the franchise.

Just trying to take your mind off the pain of Thursday night’s 9-8 Cubs elimination of the Nationals. But this one won’t pass into history easily.

New pain, old pain — it’s all painful.

I don’t know where this loss will fit in among the D.C. Sports Hall of Failures. It’s hard to judge one over the other.

I don’t know if Max Scherzer’s fifth inning meltdown was worse than the Capitals Game 7 collapse in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, when they were down 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins before the crowd got in their seats at the Verizon Center on the way to a 6-3 loss.

I don’t know if Matt Wieters’ fifth inning bungles were worse than Robert Griffin III hobbling around FedEx Field on one leg after the Redskins, leading 14-0 in a first-round playoff game to the Seattle Seahawks, wound up losing 24-14 in January 2013 to start several years of chaos.

Heck, I don’t even know if the four-run debacle we witnessed in fifth inning Thursday night at Nationals Park is worse than five years ago to the day, when the Nationals blew a 6-0 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the fifth and deciding game of the division series and lost 9-7.

It is just one long, painful trail of failure, as we see another Washington sports team fail to move past the first round of the postseason for the 20th straight year.

This one failure lasted more than 4½ hours and had its own unique moments of pain, but none more difficult than what the soldout crowd witnessed — a crowd that was pumped up because of expectations.

Their team was winning 4-3, and their greatest pitcher, Max Scherzer, was coming into the game in relief to crush the Cubs. What could go wrong?

Here’s what — with two outs, single, single, double, intentional walk, strikeout-passed-ball-error catcher, hit-by-pitch — and when it was finally over, Chicago had a 7-4 lead.

It was a $230 million Scott Boras meltdown production, as his two clients, Scherzer and Wieters, combined for a series of plays that I might say was a comedy of errors, but there was nothing funny about it — only sadness and surrender.

If that wasn’t enough, Washington managed to close the gap to 9-8 in the bottom of the eighth.

Michael A. Taylor, who hit a three-run home run back in the second inning, when the game was fun, was on second, backup catcher Jose Lobaton was on first, and Trea Turner was at the plate with two outs against exhausted Cubs reliever Wade Davis.

But Lobaton got picked off first base by catcher Wilson Contreras to end the inning.

Of course he did. What else would you expect?

What went wrong? Everything. Who is to blame? Ghosts. Demons. Friday the 13th.

 But, like always, we move on.

The 2-2 Redskins play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers at FedEx Field. The Capitals have already opened their season with a hot Alex Ovechkin, and yes, those promising Wizards open their season in days.

All members in good standing of the sports sadist society that has punished Washington sports fans for decades.

And the Nationals? We enter the Harper final year countdown.

We will see if manager Dusty Baker, with two straight division titles, a National League manager of the year candidate, returns, since he has no contract and may conceivably have managed his last game in Washington Thursday night.

“It really hurts to lose like that … it was just a tough game to lose,” Baker said after the loss.

And we look forward to July 17, 2018 — the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Nationals Park. After all, how painful could that be? It doesn’t count.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.
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