After Game Four, I wrote:
There’s no telling how Game Five will turn out, but let’s hope the series mimics Werth’s at-bat: in trouble early on, aiming to keep alive in the middle, and brilliant at the end. If so, we’re in for a good one.
As it turns out, the Cardinals did mimic Jayson Werth’s at-bat. They trailed by three runs after the first inning and by six runs after three innings. Bit by bit, St. Louis got back into the game. In both the fifth and the seventh, the Cardinals sent the go-ahead run to the plate. But they were unable to tie the game either time, and instead entered the ninth inning down by two runs.
Drew Storen, the Nationals’ closer, entered the game. A leadoff double caused some stomach knots in the crowd, but Storen rebounded to retire the next two batters. Storen got into a two-strike count against Yadier Molina, then walked him on six pitches. He did the same with David Freese. That’s okay, that’s all right, Nationals fans had to be thinking. Due up was the liver of the Cardinals’ order—Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma, and the pitcher’s spot—and Storen just needed to record one more out without allowing two runs.
Storen did get one more out, but not until after the Cardinals had scored four runs and turned a two-run disadvantage into a two-run lead, all with two outs. Jason Motte completed his second inning of work, and the Cardinals advanced to the National League Championship Series.
In trouble early, surviving in the middle, and winning out in the end, the victorious Cardinals are an unusual brand of bird: resilient and up for overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.
- Expect Davey Johnson use of Edwin Jackson in relief to top the list of decisions suited for second-guessing. Jackson, a starter by trade, worked one inning and allowed just one run—the same as Tyler Clippard, and fewer than Storen—but it was during Jackson’s inning that the feel of the game shifted from, “This is over” to “This isn’t over.”
That isn’t to say it was a bad move. Johnson had used Jordan Zimmermann in Game Four in a similar situation. In theory, a team’s third-best starting pitcher should be able to handle the seventh inning just fine.
- Johnson leaving Storen out there for the duration of the ninth inning will be second-guessed as well.
- I picked the Nationals to win in five games, but I’ll admit that I didn’t feel good about the pick entering the final stages of Game Five. The Cardinals had won two games convincingly and lost two games by a run apiece. Maybe it’s wrong to be swayed by run differential over a four-game span, but the Cardinals were seemingly playing the better brand of ball. In the end, that tends to win out. It did here.
- Game One of the National League Championship Series is on Sunday. Lance Lynn will face Madison Bumgarner.