Washington, as a city, was hoping to end an 84-year World Series drought since a D.C.-based team last hosted a World Series in 1933, and also end the nation’s capital’s 93-year drought since the lone World Series Championship, won by the Senators all the way back in 1924. That history, and the three NLDS losses in the five previous years were not on the minds of the 2017 Nationals heading into last night’s Game 5 with Chicago’s Cubs, however.
“I don't think it's on too many guys' minds because most of them weren't here,” Dusty Baker told reporters before the start of last night’s series finale in Nationals Park.
“There were a few guys that were here but most of them haven't been here. You can't put that pressure on you. You try to simplify the pressure that, hey, we've got to win one game, regardless of if you've never won a series here.
“Sometimes the reputation of the town in other sports, basketball, you hear about it; in hockey, you hear about it, just different things. So you have to dispel those negative thoughts on your mind and just say, ‘Hey, it will be us.’
“You know, we're not ready to go home. We want to go to the next round. I mean, for me, well, I guess I am ready to go home. I was born in Riverside, California.” [laughter]
Baker, in his 22nd season as a major league manager, after 19 years as a player, was asked before the game what keeps him going.
Is it just the fact that he wants that World Series which has eluded him in his second career in the game?
“No, what keeps me going is I love what I'm doing. I love competition. In our world, people always want people to quit, and I hear it all the time. I even talked my dad into retiring, and then he got deathly sick and went back and started working part-time, and then he got well again.
“So what keeps me going is the quest for excellence, the thrill of competition, plus there's a few things that I want to accomplish in life. And until I figure out why the lows of losing don't match the highs of winning, then I'll probably be a manager for awhile. Not a long while, but a while.”
While the 68-year-old skipper still loves the game he’s spent his life playing, baseball doesn’t always love you back.
Last night’s 9-8 loss to the Cubs was a brutal one for the Nats, who played a sloppy game, and saw every last thing that could go wrong go wrong, and now it’s over.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” a somber Jayson Werth told reporters after going 2 for 4 with two walks in Game 5, with a key missed catch on a ball he lost in the lights in the sixth.
“Man, I can’t believe that we lost that game, it’s just tough to swallow,” Werth added.
“They just came out on top this time,” Bryce Harper (2 for 4, BB, R) said. “They’re a great team and all the best to them.”
“One of the craziest games that I think I’ve ever been a part of,” Ryan Zimmerman said, after he went 0 for 4 with three Ks and seven left on base.
“It’s weird. Long, long year, play every day for the most part, and what do you do now?” Trea Turner asked rhetorically.
Max Scherzer, in his first relief appearance since 2013, took the mound with a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning, and after retiring two batters, gave up three hits, a walk, a hit-by-pitch, and four runs, two earned, in one of the crazier innings of baseball in a while, which also included a strike three/passed ball/throwing error, and catcher interference call.
“It just sucks because I just know how hard everybody played, the talent everybody is, this game’s cruel sometimes, just the way things can happen,” Scherzer said after the loss.
“We didn't play a very good game,” Baker said. “We still battled till the end, and you know, we had far too many walks and they end up scoring in a hot mess.”
“It's very disappointing, not to be going to L.A., not to go home see my family, and play in Dodger Stadium and go to the next step.”