I take back what I said before about the Nats lineup lacking clutch hitters who can produce in the playoffs. They do have one–his name is Bryce Harper, but he sure can’t do it alone. That was the story of the 2014 NLDS, about five Nats players looked like they came to play. Most of the rest looked like they had already booked their late October tee times.
Without further ado, here is the Nats’ EXPOSed list of heroes and goats of the 2014 NLDS.
1. Bryce Harper – young Mr. Harper was literally a one man offense, hitting 3 of the Nats’ 4 home runs in the series and, more incredibly, collecting 4 of the measly 7 RBIs and 4 of the 7 extra base hits the team managed to in the equivalent of five games played. He also flashed the leather on defense, and overall looked every bit as much the superstar that he hasn’t resembled for a large portion of the last two seasons. If, on Opening Day 2015, Harper is not in the lineup batting third or cleanup, Matt Williams should be fired on the spot.
2. Jordan Zimmermann – what else could a pitcher do to win a game for his team? Eight and 2/3rd innings, 4 baserunnners, none of whom made it past second base while he was on the mound. It makes me sick just thinking about Zimmermann not getting the Game 2 win.
3. Doug Fister – Do you think maybe Fister is quite happy right now that he turned down the Nats’ contract extension offer right after he was traded from Detroit? If he can even come close to repeating his 2014 performance next year, he’s going to be a VERY rich man come the free agency period next offseason.
4. Anthony Rendon – The Nats’ other young star hitter did what he was supposed to do near the top of the order–set the table by collecting 7 hits and a walk in the series. Too bad there was nobody behind him to drive him in. Rendon also almost had the hit that would have won the marathon Game 2 in the 15th inning. A “what if” in an excruciatingly frustrating series that was full of them.
1. Jayson Werth/Adam LaRoche/Denard Span – The top of the order, save Rendon, absolutely KILLED the Nats in this series, collecting a total of 4 hits, all singles, in the equivalent of 5 games. These over-30 guys were supposed to be the veteran team leaders–yet they failed time after time after time. If anyone out there was pining for LaRoche to return next year, I hope this horrid series has disabused you of such notions.
2. Drew Storen – I was in the camp who blamed Davey Johnson for misusing Storen in the 2012 NLDS by pitching his closer in the 8-0 Game 3 blowout to keep him “fresh,” despite knowing there was every chance Storen might then need to pitch three games in a row. But this time? There is no excuse for Storen blowing Zimmermann’s gem. All he needed was one lousy out and he couldn’t get it (at all–only a close play at the plate allowed the game to move into extra innings). My hope is that young Mr. Storen gets a change of scenery via trade–because the Nats going into a third playoff run next year (assuming they get there) with him as the closer would be quite insane at this point.
3. Gio Gonzalez – Despite his marvelous 2012 regular season, Gio’s underwhelming performance was a big factor in the Nats losing the Game 5 of the NLDS after he had narrowly escaped not completely blowing it in Game 1. It was thought going into this playoff run that not being expected to be the ace this time would calm him down a bit. Instead, it was his horrible error that gave the Giants the margin of victory in Game 4 and thus the series. Would the Nats have been better off had Tanner Roark started the game? We’ll never know.
4. Aaron Barrett – Though it wasn’t quite as dramatic as Storen’s Game 2 failure, Barrett was the pitcher who literally threw the series away. His final stats: 4 batters faced, 2 BBs, 1 Hit, 1 Wild Pitch, one October ruined for the Washington Nationals.
I was also tempted to put manager Matt Williams on the “Goat” list for putting Barrett in the deciding game and not using Clippard or Stammen, or heck, just about anybody else. After all, there WAS no tomorrow to save anyone for. On the other hand, Game 4 probably could have gone another 9 innings without the Nats scoring another run, so really any move he made at that point was likely to be futile.
I’ll be back over the next few days with some season-in-review posts.