October 10, 2012
NLDS Game Three Recap: Cardinals 8, Nationals 0
The talk during and around Game Three was about Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg’s absence went unnoticed, for the most part, in Game One because of the tight score. In Game Two, however, the Cardinals thrashed Jordan Zimmermann. The beat-down resulted in one National player telling Ken Rosenthal, “If we had ‘Stras, we’d be up 2-0.” But the Nationals do not have Strasburg, and now they are down 1-2 because of their active pitchers.
Gio Gonzalez’s Game One start, in which he pitched five innings and allowed one run, has been the high point of the Nationals’ postseason. Gio walked seven in that outing and was lucky to escape without more damage. You already know Zimmermann threw batting practice in Game Two. Edwin Jackson didn’t pitch beautifully in Game Three, allowing four runs over five innings. This is why the Nationals are a loss away from beginning their offseason.
Kevin Goldstein used to say that something only mattered if the players put weight into it. Take closer mentality. Meaningless… except if the pitcher being called upon in the ninth inning thought he didn’t have what it took to close out games. Then closer mentality can have a tangible effect on ballgames. The same can apply to the Strasburg-less Effect. The Nationals’ chances of winning this series did not ride on whether Strasburg would pitch, but if the club’s players believed that they did, then perhaps those negative thoughts have infected their brains and affected their play. Whether this is true or not doesn’t matter; with one more loss the Nationals will give birth to an offseason-long narrative.
If the Nationals do lose Game Four, expect to see plenty of the same images we saw late in Game Three: Strasburg, in full uniform, on the bench, looking bored and picking at his cleats. Ross Detwiler could save Mike Rizzo grief if he pitches well on Thursday.