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Washington Nationals clinch NL Pennant with 7-4 win over St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of NLCS

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“I can’t put this into words — I’ll say this: Often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places. And this is a beautiful place.” - Davey Martinez on winning the NL Pennant.

League Championship Series - St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals - Game Four Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

St. Louis Cardinals’ skipper Mike Shildt talked after the Cards scored 10 in the first inning of of what ended up a 13-1 win in Game 5 of the NLDS with the Atlanta Braves, about not being comfortable even with the big early lead in SunTrust Park.

“First of all, it was never enough runs, man,” Shildt said. “Just keep eating, boys, keep going, which we did. I love the fact we added on after that, and the next couple of innings as well.

“As far as that goes, this is a very present group, just kept right there, pitch to pitch.

“Keep playing the game, keep getting outs off that board, keep putting up zeros.”

Going into Game 4 of the NLCS, trailing 3-0 to the Washington Nationals, Shildt said his club needed to find a way to score runs after putting up two total in three games.

“We need to get something going,” Shildt told reporters.

“We have confidence. We know we got here for a reason, but by the same token, we need to experience success to feel good about what that looks like.

“Like I said, we had a lead. So get a lead, play, play the game, get some outs, shake some heads into the game, that’s a whole different environment, ready to go and get after it.

“That spark can lead to a big fire.”

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the spark and fire came in the bottom of the first inning in Game 4, with the Nationals putting up a seven-spot, knocking out starter Dakota Hudson after he’d recorded just one out, and piling on early as they tried to clinch a World Series berth for a the first time by a D.C.-based team since 1933.

That 86-year drought will come to an end on October 25th, when Game 3 with either the New York or Houston takes place in the nation’s capital.

In order to earn the right to play in the Fall Classic, however, the Nationals had to hold on to the lead as the Cards kept fighting and chipped away in what ended up a 7-4 win.

Patrick Corbin gave up four hits, three walks, and four runs in five innings, Tanner Rainey got through a scoreless sixth, Sean Doolittle gave the Nationals 1 23 scoreless, and then Daniel Hudson locked down the win, working out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the eighth and retiring the side in order in the ninth to end it.

How did the game play out for Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez after they jumped out to the early lead?

“The rest of the game went really slow,” Martinez said, “but you know, that first inning, we came out -- I mention it all the time before the games, ‘Hey, let’s go out there, and let’s go first, especially in these games like that. And they came out, and I mean, we started swinging the bats from the get go. At first you think, man, that’s awesome. We’re probably going to score a bunch of runs, and it turns out we didn’t. That was it.

“I’m really proud of the guys, just every inning, we try to win every inning and stay in it.

“The boys did well. Patrick got out of some jams, and then our bullpen. I can’t say enough about Rainey, Doo, Huddy, what they did today. Huge game for the both of them, but they’ve done that through this whole playoffs.”

Ryan Zimmerman, who’s been through it all with the Nationals, said that he thought about some past postseason disappointments as the Nats tried to hold on against the Cards.

“I’ve seen it before ... from that team,” Zimmerman said, referring, of course, to the 2012 NLDS, when the Nationals got up 6-0 on the Cards in what ended up a 9-7 loss in Game 5.

“So I knew they weren’t going to quit,” Zimmerman continued. “I’ve said this multiple times to a lot of interviewers. That team over there and that organization, it’s one of the best.

“I knew they weren’t going to give up. I knew they weren’t going to roll over.

“Their bullpen did a really good job of keeping it that way, and then they chipped away a little bit, but our bullpen did a great job, as well.

“As far as getting out to -- obviously, seven runs in the first inning is ideal, and then Pat threw really well. Pat’s done a lot. They’ve asked him to do a lot that he’s never done before. So he -- the starting pitchers, all of them, they’ve asked to take the ball in multiple scenarios, and not one of them said no. I think for Pat to come out and throw those first four or five innings like he did and grind through it when he lost it, that’s just kind of the epitome of our team right there.”

For a team that started 19-31, then went 74-38 the rest of the way, earning a Wild Card spot, winning their way into the NLDS, and beating the Los Angeles Dodgers before taking out St. Louis, it was quite a journey to get to the World Series.

As their second-year skipper put it on the podium when they were handed the Warren C. Giles Trophy, “often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places.”

“If you look at how -- where we came from and what we had to accomplish to get here, it wasn’t easy. I’ll be the first to say, you know, I never doubted these guys. I really didn’t. All I kept telling myself, hey, stay with them. Stick to the process. Stay positive. Teach. And as soon as everybody gets healthy, we’ll make a run. We’ll make a run. We’ll get back in this thing.

“Didn’t know how far we’d get back in it, but I really believed that these guys could turn this around right from the get go, and they did. We played really well throughout. After May 24th, we played playoff baseball throughout the rest of the year. The result is what you see.”

And was it, in fact, more beautiful because of the bumps along the way?

“100%,” Martinez said.

“I can’t think of any -- look, I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my career -- Game 162, Game 163, World Series in ‘08, 2016, 108 years waiting to get -- but this right here, to me, tops everything I’ve ever been through. I mean, I’m so proud of the guys, honestly. They could have folded. They didn’t.”