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.
Thursday is September 1, which means rosters expand. As a result, the Nationals plan to promote pitcher Mat Latos to the major league roster, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Latos had an opt-out clause for Monday, but after discussing the matter with the team, he agreed to stay at Triple-A Syracuse until Thursday.
Latos, 28, put up a 4.62 ERA over 11 starts with the White Sox before being released in mid-June. Nearly two weeks later, he signed a minor league contract with the Nationals.
In the Nationals’ minor league system, Latos has made three starts for the club’s Gulf Coast League team as well as three for Syracuse. In aggregate, the right-hander has yielded six runs (four earned) on 20 hits and 10 walks with 28 strikeouts in 28 innings.
Latos will likely pitch out of a long relief role for the Nationals and can be used as starting rotation insurance as well.
Mark Buehrle hasn’t officially retired, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in professional baseball since last October. Still, the Blue Jays wouldn’t mind having some insurance, so manager John Gibbons recently texted Buehrle, “You know, rosters expand in September,” Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports.
Buehrle’s response? He texted back a picture of a lake. Sounds like he’s not interested in making a return, at least this year.
Last year, at the age of 36, Buehrle went 15-8 with a 3.81 ERA with a 91/33 K/BB ratio in 198 2/3 innings while leading the league with four complete games. He fell 1 1/3 innings shy of a 15th consecutive 200-inning season. There are many worse ways to end a career.