MLB playoffs 2019: Nationals finally advance in October, and that’s all that matters

first_imgLet’s start with the only correct answer to the most-asked, most-irrelevant question on Tuesday night: Who friggin’ cares? The Nationals, as you surely were reminded in every single preview of the NL wild card contest, had never won a postseason series since the franchise moved from Montreal (RIP Expos) to Washington, D.C., after the 2004 season. They beat the Brewers in dramatic fashion Tuesday night, and almost immediately the question was asked, “Yeah, but does that really count as winning a playoff series? It’s one game. One game isn’t a series.” Hader walked MVP candidate Anthony Rendon to face the lefty Soto, the club’s 20-year-old clean-up hitter. And Soto’s roped single to right field — where Christian Yelich patrolled before breaking his kneecap and ending his season — skipped past Trent Grisham, clearing the bases. Daniel Hudson shut the door in the ninth inning, sealing the victory. And it doesn’t matter whether you think it’s a “series win” or not.What matters is the Nationals finally advanced in October, and the players and fans celebrated that advancement appropriately. Give me a break. MORE: Nats manager Dave Martinez accidentally shaves playoff beardIt’s October, and winning matters. Surviving matters. Advancing matters, whether it’s a small step or a giant leap. For some franchises and fan bases, getting past the wild card contest wouldn’t be a big deal, and that’s fine. But just because your favorite team has punched a few October tickets, don’t tell me it’s a play-in game. Don’t tell me it’s not the “real” postseason.It’s as much a playoff game as Game 7 of the World Series. In fact, you’ll remember Game 7 of the 2014 World Series included two wild card-winning teams, the Giants and the Royals. The Nationals advanced in October for the first time in D.C., and that matters. You saw the raw emotion on the faces of the players. You saw the beer being tossed about in the stands, as TBS cameras spanned the crowd. You saw Juan Soto celebrating on the base paths even as he was being tagged out in a rundown, because he knew the go-ahead run had already crossed home plate in the eighth inning. Winning in October matters because losing in October, well, sucks, and Nationals fans had experienced plenty of heartbreaking moments in Halloween’s favorite month. You saw the looks on the faces of the fans in the first inning, right after Yasmani Grandal stunned the crowd with a two-run homer off Max Scherzer. Nats fans are, yeah, stunned— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) October 2, 2019It was an all-too-familiar feeling. The Nationals had played three winner-take-all playoff contests at home over the past seven years, and they’d lost all three. And they didn’t just lose in boring ways, they lost in very painful ways. — In 2012, the Nationals had a 7-5 lead into the top of the ninth, at home, in Game 5 of the NLDS. But the Cardinals sent eight men to the plate in that half-inning and four of them scored — the final two on an RBI single by Pete Kozma (.569 career MLB OPS), of all people.— In 2016, the Nationals lost Game 5 in the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers. The Nationals grabbed a 2-1 lead in the series and outscored the Dodgers 24-19, but LA won three one-run decisions and advanced. The Dodgers scored four times in the seventh inning of Game 5 and won 4-3. — In 2017, Game 5 of the NLDS against the Cubs was mildly insane: The Nationals led 4-1 after two innings. The Cubs led 8-4 through the top of the sixth. The Nationals scored two in the sixth, one in the seventh and one in the eighth, but the lone run the Cubs scored in the seventh proved enough in a 9-8 victory. In 2019, things finally broke the Nationals’ way, starting with Ryan Zimmermann — a franchise icon who could have possibly played his final game for the team — breaking his bat on a blooped eighth-inning single off Josh Hader. That put two runners on base with two outs.last_img

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