It’s never easy, the end of the baseball season. And make no mistake, it’s over. Sure, you can follow the rest of the playoffs until its conclusion, but for fans of the Washington Nationals, the end of the baseball season came late Tuesday night in San Francisco.
It came in a bitter, frustrating, disappointing manner — they weren’t so much defeated, but done in by their own mistakes and mismanagement.
It’s an unimaginable conclusion, after winning their way to the best record in the National League to be dumped in the division series, unceremoniously, on the road, practically in the middle of the night.
Most fans would like nothing better than to praise the winners for a job well done, victors in a meritorious fashion. But the bottom line of this NLDS is that the Giants, while victors, were no better than the Nats. Neither team hit at all, rather the Nats continued to make errors and mistakes, and as one of the analysts on the terrible postgame shows said, “If you aren’t scoring runs, you can’t give away outs.”
The Giants didn’t, the Nats did.
Both teams scored nine runs in the series. Four of the nine runs came via solo home runs, three of which came from the youngest player on the team — who could be the youngest player on the majority of AA teams.
It just wasn’t enough.
Manager Matt Williams was criticized — rightly — in three of the four games for decisions he made with his pitching staff, most notably how he managed his bullpen. Veterans Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos were non-existent.
Werth and LaRoche, the three-four hitters combined for two base hits in 35 at bats in the four games. In the game Span reached twice, the Nats won. Other than that, he was transparent. Desmond and Ramos are still swinging at sliders away.
It’s hard to fault the pitchers that didn’t come through, considering they gave up just nine runs in four games. Aaron Barrett and Tanner Roark looked in over their heads. Gio Gonzalez got rattled after a physical error. Drew Storen gave up base hits when he needed strikeouts. But it’s nit-picking.
They gave up NINE RUNS IN FOUR GAMES. They should have won all of them.
Yes, this one’s gonna hurt. They all do. But this will hurt differently than 2012 did. The Nats were one pitch away from advancing on several occasions in a ten minute period and it was ripped away from them. Most thought they weren’t ready.
This year, they were ready. Full of veterans. Playoff tested. Best record in the league. Young players coming into their own. The best starting staff and bullpen in the league. Yet, it all blew up. Rather, they just didn’t show up.
The window’s still open with this group of players, but it won’t be forever. Denard Span and Adam LaRoche both have team options for next year. We don’t know if either will be back. Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann are free agents after next season.
We have no idea where — or even if — Ryan Zimmerman will be able to contribute in a meaningful way the rest of his career.
For a team that’s as veteran as this is, there are a lot of questions. The sobering conclusion is that this very well might have been the Nats best chance to win a championship with this group of players.
And they blew it. It’s hard to type that. I’m sure it hard to read it. But it’s true.