- - Friday, October 6, 2017


The Nationals’ No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, Anthony Rendon, committed a rare error at third base to start the top of the sixth to put Cubs second baseman Javier Baez at first.

Then, after Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks sacrificed Baez to second and Ben Zobrist hit a fly ball to center, the Nationals’ No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft — Stephen Strasburg, pitching a no-hitter to that point — gave up a line drive to Kris Bryant to right field.

As Baez headed home to score, the Nationals’ No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, Bryce Harper, playing right field, instead of hitting the cutoff man to keep Bryant at first and out of scoring position, foolishly tried to throw Baez out at home — a throw the 2010 No. 1 pick didn’t have a prayer of making.

Bryant, of course, moved to second, and Anthony Rizzo followed with another line drive to right — this one the 2010 No. 1 draft pick dove for but failed to bring in — scoring Bryant and giving the Chicago Cubs a 2-0 lead over the Washington Nationals. 

They added another run in the eighth inning off reliever Ryan Madson for a 3-0 win over the Nationals in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

That sixth inning represented all the failed championship promise of the Nationals by the three biggest symbols of their success — Rendon, Strasburg and Harper.

Three No. 1 draft picks — back-to-back-to-back. 

All contributed to the moments — and it was seemingly just moments — when the euphoria of Strasburg’s dominant performance was sucked up by the despair of Washington playoff pain.

“You have to take advantage of mistakes,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

You could say it was a Scott Boras trifecta of terror.

It was fun at Nationals Park, and then it wasn’t. This was Nationals crowd that came to play — the stands were surprisingly devoid of large amounts of Cubs fans — and with each Strasburg strikeout, the energy grew.

A few moments later, and the sellout crowd of 43,898 suddenly realized that the other guy on the mound for the Cubs — Hendricks — was throwing his own gem. 

At that point, the Nationals had failed to get any runner past second base in six innings, with no runs, two hits and five runners left on base.

Maybe the Nationals really missed Jacque Jones — the team’s assistant hitting coach suspended before the start of the game for some sort of legal issue. 

Over nine innings, Nationals hitters connected on just two hits — and nothing after Michael Taylor’s second inning single to right.

That is some sort of legal issue there.

Earlier this week, Nationals manager Dusty Baker said the postseason was “hero” time. And it appeared that Strasburg, after his disappointing performance in his only other postseason start in 2014, did his best to be the hero.

He gave the hometown fans a a 10-strikeout performance over seven innings, with neither of the runs charged to him.

But he was done in by two swings of the bat and by Rendon and Harper — all clients of Boras, the super agent who promised Nationals owner Ted Lerner championships.

Now Washington will put their playoff lives in this best-of-five division series in the hands of left hander Gio Gonzalez Saturday in Game 2 at Nationals Park — as another Boras client, Max Scherzer, nursing a sore hamstring, has been pushed back to start Game 3 Monday in Chicago, when it may be too late for heroes.

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


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