It was an historic turn of events in the City on the Potomac. Their team, that had fought so hard all year to capture their first advancement to the National League Championship, fell upon the dreaded enemy of so many cities that field teams in the Senior Circuit. In the end, they simply did not know how to win.
You could see it in the eyes of the Nationals… that ‘deer in the headlights’ glaze that signaled defeat as they stepped to the plate and went through the motions of ending it in that nearly quiet, stadium stunned, last at bat. Here they were, just a few moments before, ready to enjoy the sweet taste of victory and advancement to a place rarely visited by any team in this City. They had the opponent on the ropes, up by two with two outs and two strikes on the batter, not once, but twice.
On the other side of the equation, the Cardinals from St. Louis had been here before and had done that time and time again. As recent as last season, they did the impossible by climbing back into the playoffs, fighting against all hopes, and won the World Series….for the umpteenth time in their long history. They knew how to win. They EXPECTED to win. The did just that, coming from behind and laying a four spot on the Nationals in the top of the Ninth.
Washington THOUGHT they could win. They didn’t. Jason Werth came to the plate in the bottom of the 9th and in stunned motion, retired. Then the rookie sensation, Bryce Harper who homered and doubled in the early innings, did what most rookie sensations do when they hit the ultimate clutch situation so early in their career…they fail to deliver when it is needed the most. It was over in a heart beat as he swung at a pitch clearly high over the strike zone nearly eye level. Anxious to perform, wanting to bring the home crowd an historic win, the Mighty Casey struck out. Ryan Zimmerman, the All-Star third baseman, ended the game mercifully lifting a soft fly to right field in what was now the valley of could-have-beens and would-have-beens and broken hearts. They went out with a hushed whimper and not a noisy bang.
Baseball is a cruel sport. It rarely awards the improbable yet teases us for months that there is hope. It is a sport with an eternal Spring yet a harsh, crisp coldness of Winter that slams the door shut when October comes around. Again this year, the teams that know how to win have gathered for the ultimate fight for the championship. The San Francisco Giants, the World Series winner just two seasons ago will host the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League Championship.
Again his season, there is a tradition of excellence that comes through….a legacy of Willie Mays against Stan Musial. Today these two teams begin their fight for the N.L title. In this series, they both know how to win.