The final ticket to the league championship series will be punched on Friday night in Washington DC, where the Washington Nationals take on the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 5 of the NLDS.
The Cardinals have made it to this crucial game, and time and time again over the course of the last year and change, they have won every single last big game that they have been engaged in. This is going to be a tough one on the road, but it’s not like the Atlanta Braves don’t know a thing or two about the Cards coming on the road and winning a big one in the enemy’s park. The ball is left for Adam Wainwright for Game 5 of this series. Manager Mike Matheny really doesn’t have many more options than to give it to his righty, though he only lasted 5.2 innings in Game 1 of this series. Wainwright allowed one runs on six hits and three walks over that period of time, but in the end, it was the bullpen that coughed up the game with a pair of unearned runs allowed in the eighth. St. Louis has already blasted six home runs in this series, and there are four batters in the lineup that have at least five hits in four games.
Washington actually has played in games like this one in franchise history, but those games happened in Montreal as the Expos, not here in the states as the Nationals. Montreal was able to win a five-game series with a 3-0 win in the do or die game against the Philadelphia Phillies in 1981, but in the very next series, it lost a 2-1 game to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the decisive Game 5 to take away any hopes of making the World Series. There has to be a concern about the man that is on the mound in this one, Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez only lasted five innings, and he threw 110 pitches in that time. He walked seven batters and struck out five. Gonzalez did only allow two runs and a hit, but he’ll get crushed if he pitches like that again in this spot and can’t find the strike zone. Just a reminder: This was the game that Stephen Strasburg probably would have been pitching in, and losing it will cause a heck of a lot of members of the media to be asking a heck of a lot of questions.
The Nationals are going to get what the Nationals deserve in this one. They had a chance to have their ace on the mound for Game 1 and Game 5, and this series very well might not have gotten to this point had he been out there. Instead, Gonzalez just didn’t look like a man that could pitch a team to the next round of the playoffs. Wainwright has that experience, and he has the grittiest team in baseball behind him. St. Louis 5 – Washington 4