For this morning’s Wire Taps, I had all sorts of things prepared: a compilation of the previous Wire Taps following NLDS losses; thank-you-notes and apologies; sad photos, and twangy guitar montages.
Not that the ghosts matter at this point, so say that again: the Washington Nationals are four wins away from the National League Championship. Who knows, it may all fall apart—having only two, maybe three relievers you really trust is never a great strategy—but these Nats finally won a playoff series.
So, for what won’t be the last time this year, here’s the scoop from St. Louis:
Howie Kendrick keeps the party going, and the Nats are dancing into the NLCS (WaPo)
The Kershaw curse finally met the Nationals' curse, and the Kershaw curse proved stronger; Juan Soto's clutch legend grew further because of it. And then Howie Kendrick ended the game, ended the season for LA, sucking the air out of a stadium.
For heroic Nationals, ghosts of playoffs past are busted in Game 5 (WaPo)
The Nats had six outs remaining. But instead of embodying the Nationals of years past, they tied it up from 3-1 down against one of the best lefties in baseball (yeah, again), and then won it with their next real shot to do so. Finally, someone else folded in front of the Nats; finally, an NLCS — and it all came after Kendrick, Soto, and Anthony Rendon stepped up, after the impossibility of the Nats' return from the brink. They've done it all year; they did it last night.
Nats eschew pinch-hitter, stick with Strasburg (MLB.com)
Instead of cutting Strasburg's start short, the Nats got another two innings out of their workhorse, and by holding the Dodgers at 3-1, they were able to mount a comeback.
Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto homer off Clayton Kershaw (MLB.com)
"According to STATS Inc., the Nationals are the second team in MLB postseason history to hit back-to-back home runs to tie the game in the eighth inning or later. The Reds did it in the 1976 NLCS."
Nationals advance to NLCS with dramatic victory vs. Dodgers (Yahoo!)
"The 106-win Dodgers fell short again. There are so many directions where fingers can be pointed after Game 5. Whether it be an offense that produced only two hits after the second inning. Or Clayton Kershaw's latest postseason disappointment. Or Dave Roberts' decision to roll with Joe Kelly over closer Kenley Jansen for two innings in a tie game."
Clayton Kershaw gives up Dodgers’ lead in Game 5 loss (WaPo)
Somehow, it was Clayton Kershaw who gave up the crucial runs against the Nats. Somehow, in three pitches from the best pitcher of this generation, the Nats turned around their entire series and extended the season.
Nationals eliminate Dodgers on Howie Kendrick grand slam, 7-3 (WaPo)
But baseball has a way of offering another chance. These Nationals know that better than anyone. They learned it when they turned their season around in late May. They learned it when they were four outs away from losing the wild-card game last week. And they learned it again right here, in the exact kind of night that has always slipped away from them, but tilted in their favor because Kendrick had the decisive swing."
With trio of late blasts, Nats finally get over the hump (MASN)
Kendrick, like the Nationals, had come up empty time after time in the clutch. Then came an 0-1 fastball that brought home the game, series, and rewrote the week's narrative for Howie. The Nats will now play for the National League championship. Unbelievable.
Nats stun LA with slam in 10th, head to NLCS (MLB.com)
The Nationals—on the road, with three or four pitchers they could really trust, against Clayton Kershaw and the behemoth Dodgers—stunned Los Angeles and sent the Dodgers home for the winter.
MLB: Howie Kendrick’s Wikipedia page got funny update after grand slam (USA Today)
"Second baseman/Outfielder Executioner of the Los Angeles Dodgers"
Kurt Suzuki leaves NLDS Game 5 after hit-by-pitch (MLB.com)
It at least looks like Kurt Suzuki will be okay, according to reports from the clubhouse.
Victor Robles getting better, but not ready to start yet (MASN)
Robles, Martinez said, was around 80% entering Wednesday — and when it was all on the line, they needed someone who would be able to run things out.
Why this Game 5 could be different from the other Game 5s (MASN)
The Nats, regardless of the result, had low expectations on Wednesday night: the pressure was always on the Dodgers.
NLDS Game 5 Previews: Four teams enter, two teams leave (BtBS)
"The Nationals aren’t just battling one of the three best teams ever. They’re battling their own history. The Nationals are no stranger to Game Five. This will be the fourth Game Five the Nationals have played since 2012. They fell to the Cubs in 2017. Clayton Kershaw emerged from the bullpen to take them down in 2016. They went without Strasburg in 2012 and were defeated by an 88-win Cardinals team. Including their time as the Montreal Expos, the only time the Nationals won a postseason series was in 1981 when a midseason strike split the season in two."
The Nationals are 27 outs away from the NLCS. So how will they get them? (WaPo)
"Martinez has expressed, repeatedly, that the Nationals will do anything to win. They will worry about tomorrow later. All hands are on deck. They got to Game 5 by avoiding the pitchers who have weighed them down. They got here because Scherzer and Strasburg carried out creative winning formulas. Now, with the season on the line, they just need to figure out one more."
Stephen Strasburg’s new approach makes him Nationals’ best hope in Game 5 (WaPo)
Stephen Strasburg stuck with his curveball in Game 2, and that's what got him through the game – but on Wednesday night, the curveball just wouldn't locate, and things fell apart from there to some extent. Everything was fine in the end, though!