WASHINGTON, DC — It was noticeably cooler at Nationals Park Tuesday night than for Monday night’s Game 3, with temperatures hovering just over 60 degrees at first pitch. The weather was one thing, but something else was different about this game. The Nationals sat on the edge of history, one win away from a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals and the city’s first trip to the World Series since the Senators 5-game loss to the then New York Giants in 1933.
Nationals starter Patrick Corbin come out of the gate blowing smoke, striking out Tommy Edman, Jose Martinez and Paul Goldschmidt, all swinging, and on only 13 pitches. You could say Corbin was pretty pumped up to close this series out.
The Nationals didn’t waste any time in Game 4, getting back to backline drive hits from Turner and Eaton to start the 1st inning. Then Anthony Rendon approached to plate to chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” and hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield, scoring Turner from 3rd, and helping the Nets draw first blood and take a 1-0 lead. Juan Soto followed with an opposite-field RBI double to drive in Eaton and just like that it was 2-0 Nationals with only 1-out. After an intentional walk to Howie Kendrick and a fielder’s choice/E4 loaded the bases for Victor Robles. He appeared to pop out to the shallow right field but the ball fell into a Bermuda triangle of sorts, between 3 Cardinals, and drove in Soto for an RBI single, making it 3-0 Nationals and the bases were still loaded with 1-out. Yan Gomes quickly sent the first pitch he saw through the left side hole and past the diving glove of shortstop Paul DeJong for a 2-run single. The Nationals lead was up to 5-0 and St. Louis starter Dakota Hudson’s night was over after just 1/3 of an inning and 15 pitches!
Trea Turner came up for his 2nd at-bat of the game in the 1st inning and laced a 2-run single to make it an astonishing 7-0 Nationals lead. Adam Wainwright got out of the inning but the damage was already done. It was Game 4 of the NLCS and the Nationals had put up a touchdown’s worth of runs, batted around and chased St. Louis’ starter and it was only the 1st inning. It was early, but you could almost hear the late “Dandy” Don Meredith singing “Turn out the liiiights, the party’s over!” Washington could smell the World Series.
Corbin kept his foot on the gas after his teammates’ 7 runs of support, striking out two more Cardinals in the 2nd, bringing his total to 5 strikeouts (on just 23 pitches!) through the first two innings. After the performances of his starting rotation-mates in this series, he seemed determined to not be the odd man out.
The Nats didn’t put up any more runs in the 2nd, but that didn’t seem to matter to Corbin who continued to have his way with St. Louis’ hitters. The lefty wrung up Harrison Bader and pinch hitter Randy Arozarena around a Kolton Wong single before walking Edman to get into his first jam of the night, 2-on, 2-out. Corbin got Martinez to ground out weakly to his catcher Gomes and escaped the 3rd unscathed and his team still leading 7-0.
Corbin did give up a solo home run to Yadier Molina with 2-outs in the 4th inning and got the Cardinals on the board, still trailing 7-1. Molina’s homer marked the first earned run Nationals starter had allowed in this NLCS and ended their 25.1 inning streak. It was merely a blip on the radar as around that home run, Corbin struck out the side, bring his total to 10 strikeouts in just 4 innings and 55 pitches.
Harrison Bader drew a leadoff walk off Corbin the 5th and after Wong’s single and another walk to pinch hitter Dexter Fowler, the Nationals’ lefty was in hot water for really the first time in the game. This time the bases were loaded with Cardinals and Corbin had yet to record an out in the 5th inning. He was up to 75 pitches after already throwing 20 in the inning and nothing to show for it. Corbin induced an RBI groundout from Edman before Martinez doubled in two more for the Cards and suddenly there was a tension in the air at Nats Park. Corbin collected himself enough to strike out Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna, each for the 3rd time in 3 at-bats and stop the bleeding and take a 7-4 lead to the Washington half of the 5th. He had also tallied 12 strikeouts in just 5 innings, equaling Strasburg’s total from Game 3, and half of them (6) was against the St. Louis 3- and 4-hole hitters.
Tanner Rainey entered in the 6th to pitch for the Nationals and Patrick Corbin’s night was over. He had gotten his team through 5 innings and struck out 12 Cardinals, limiting the damage to only 4 runs. It was up to the Nationals’ bullpen to get the final 12-outs and secure the World Series berth. Rainey sent the Cards down in his inning of work, repeatedly touching 100 mph. He got Molina to pop out to Ryan Zimmerman in foul territory, struck out DeJong and got Bader to the lineup to Turner. He did all this on just 16 pitches, or one more than Dakota Hudson threw before being pulled.
The 7th inning belonged to Sean Doolittle, getting the Nats to within 6 outs of the Series. He induced a fly out to left from Wong, struck out pinch hitter Munoz and got Edman to pop out to shallow right field. All of that on just 9 total pitches. The stadium started to feel it again, the electricity of history in the making in the air. Doolittle came back out for the 8th inning after his super economical 7th inning. He got Martinez and Goldschmidt in order before Ozuna laced a 2-out single to right field.
Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez then went to his closer, Daniel Hudson to get the final 4-outs, the biggest outs in the history of the Washington Nationals. Hudson faced Molina, one of the biggest postseason stars in his respective team’s history and he hit him on the elbow to bring the tying run to the plate in the person of Paul DeJong. DeJong was 2 for 4 against Hudson with a home run, just the thing that would tie this ball game. This time he walked him on a full count to load the bases. Up came another St. Louis postseason hero, Matt Carpenter, and that anxiousness in the crowd was back to full effect. Hudson came at Carpenter with the heat…97 (Strike 1)…98 (Strike 2)…98 (Foul)…98 (Ball 1)…97 (Ball 2)…Then with a 2-2 count, on his 15th pitch, Hudson got Carpenter to ground out to Brian Dozier at second, who added some drama with an initial bobble. Daniel Hudson had thrown the same 15 pitches his nominal counterpart Dakota threw in his truncated start and his Nationals were 3 outs away.
The ninth inning was intense to say the least. You could cut said tension with a knife but even that wouldn’t be easy. Wong flew out to Soto and the crowd went wild…2 outs away…Former Nationals catcher Matt Wieters pinch hit for Andrew Miller…He popped out Gomes….1 out away
Tommy Edman was the Cardinals’ last chance…In the end, it was all for not…He flew out to Robles and with that, the fireworks started and the Nationals were headed to the World Series!!
In the 4 games against the Nationals, the St Louis Cardinals hitters were a combined 12 for 87 (.138) vs Washington starters with 38 strikeouts. The Cards were no-hit by Anibal Sanchez through 7.2 innings in Game 1 and by Max Scherzer for 6 innings in Game 2. Then they struck out 12 times against Stephen Strasburg in Game 3 and 10 more times against Corbin in Game 4. The Nats may have gotten the sticks out and thumped the Cardinals’ pitching, but the starting staff made the Cardinals (outside of the 3-run 5th inning in Game 4) look like they didn’t even belong in the same league. That’s why the Cardinals were swept back to the midwest in shock and Washington is waiting to see if they will battle the Houston Astros or the New York Yankees for THE World Series. The wild ride that is the 2019 Washington Nationals’ season continues to the penultimate round, so strap yourself in and see what the Fall Classic has in store.
After everything, the 100 loss seasons, the looooong summers, the first-round exits….after all of the heartache, the Washington Nationals have the chance of a lifetime to bring home the World Series to the capital of the free world.
Nats Ride 7-Run 1st to NLCS Sweep, World Series Berth was originally published on theteam980.com