After the Nationals took an early 6-0 lead over the Cardinals through three innings, Game 5 had all the makings of a laugher. It was anything but.
The Cardinals chipped away throughout and scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning to complete a stunning comeback, topping the Nationals 9-7 for the right to face the Giants in the NLCS.
The Cardinals scored one in the fourth, two in the fifth, one in the seventh and one in the eighth before getting to Drew Storen in the ninth. Daniel Descalso, who homered in the eighth, singled off Ian Desmond’s glove to drive home two runs to tie the game before Pete Kozma put the Cardinals ahead with a two-run double into right field. Jason Motte retired the Nationals in order in the bottom of the ninth to finish off the shocking victory.
The comeback wasn’t just stunning, it was also historic. This was the biggest comeback ever in an elimination game. The Yankees previously came back from four runs down against the Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS while the Pirates came back from four runs down against the Senators in Game 7 of the 1925 World Series. Yes, the Nationals now share some dubious history with the Senators.
The Cardinals will now move on to the National League Championship series, which will begin Sunday night in San Francisco.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.