MLB - Nationals carry on Expos tradition, handing Cardinals NLDS
By Rob Soria
After blowing a 6-0 lead to the St. Louis Cardinals, with the final blow coming during a four run ninth inning rally, one can't help but draw a comparison between the Washington Nationals collapse and the Montreal Expos disappointment in the 1981 NLCS, against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Edmonton - October 13, 2012 - As St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina worked his way down the first base line, after earning a free pass from Washington Nationals reliever Drew Storen, all that kept running through my head was the phrase, "Blue Monday". To those who care to remember, this franchise called the city of Montreal home from 1969-2004 as the Expos. After blowing a 6-0 lead to the Cardinals, with the final blow coming during a four run ninth inning rally, one can't help but draw the comparison between the Nationals collapse and the Expos biggest disappoint, the 1981 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Having already given back much of their huge advantage well before the ninth inning, Washington managed to pick up an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, giving them a 7-5 lead after eight innings of play. With that being the case, all that was standing in the way of the Nationals advancing to this "franchises" first trip to the National League Championship since 1981, were three outs. Unfortunately for the Nats and their fans, what many have referred to as "The Curse" reared it's ugly head one more time.
After outfielder Carlos Beltran led things off with a double to start the Cardinals top half of the ninth, Storen quickly retired Matt Holliday and Allen Craig, leaving the Nats three strikes away from advancing. Unfortunately, walks to both Molina and David Freese loaded the bases and put a tone of pressure on an overworked Storen.
The Washington closer was working for not only the third consecutive game but also for the fourth time in the five game set. A tall task for any relief pitcher, yet for reasons none only to himself, skipper Davey Johnson seemed to have no back up plan, if Storen failed to get the job done. At this point, it was clear he was on fumes and yet he was allowed to continue.
Daniel Descalso stepped up and promptly ripped a bullet up the middle to tie things up at 5-5, with his third hit of the night. Moments later, light-hitting shortstop Pete Kozma dropped a single down the right field line in no man's land and suddenly, the never say die Cardinals were the one's with a two run cushion. Shockingly, Storen was still on the mound and allowed to finish the ninth. A decision that would prove to be a rather costly one.
Back in '81, Montreal skip Jim Fanning decided to use one of the best starting pitchers in the NL, in Steve Rogers, to start the ninth inning, despite having closer Jeff Reardon ready to go. With Reardon having struggled in his one appearance during the series, Fanning decided to over think things, using his ace out of the pen, with the game tied at one. After recording two quick outs, Rogers yielded a solo shot to Rick Monday and the rest, as they say, is history.
From that point on, the Expos would always find a way of finishing just short of qualifying for the post-season. After suffering through a decade and a half of mediocrity, Montreal fans looked to finally have the opportunity of cheering their club onto their first ever division title in 1994 but the strike killed that dream and the Expos never came close again...until the Washington Nationals run of 2012.
For the Washington to come out with the killer instinct they displayed in the early innings of the series finale and then collapse in the fashion they did, was simply staggering to watch. Kudos to St. Louis for not giving up and finding their way back into that ball game that looked to be all but over after three innings but at some point, you really do have to wonder.
Call it a curse, destiny or whatever you would like but it seems whatever troubled the Expos during their days in Montreal, has found it's way over to Washington DC, and this very young and talented Nationals squad.
Rob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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