Davey Johnson fiddles as D.C. burns

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No major league team had ever blown more than a four-run lead to lose an elimination game. No team until the Nationals managed to let a six-run lead slip away in a 9-7 loss to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS.

One imagines Davey Johnson will put much of the blame for Friday’s defeat on his own shoulders. He certainly should. The baffling call to put Edwin Jackson into the game in the seventh was a decision that could have worked out even worse than it did (Jackson allowed one run, narrowing the lead to 6-4).

That inning should have gone to Ryan Mattheus or Christian Garcia. Those two aren’t household names and they aren’t sure things themselves, but they’re genuine relievers who have experienced success in the role this year. Jackson is a starter who was pitching on one day of rest.

The ninth was the real disaster, though, and one wonders how much differently that would have gone if the Nationals hadn’t put in Drew Storen to get some work in Wednesday’s 8-0 loss. Storen went on to throw another inning Thursday, so by using him again Friday, the Nationals were asking him to pitch a full inning three days in a row for the first time this year. He had pitched three days in a row twice previously since elbow surgery, but they were in a setup role and he wasn’t working full innings (he pitched two innings in three days the first time and 1 2/3 innings in three days the second time).

It was obvious Storen wasn’t at his best tonight. He still could have gotten out with the save if David Freese had been called out on a checked-swing or if Ian Desmond had handled Daniel Descalso’s game-tying single.

But Johnson left him in, even though he was struggling to get his slider down, making him a one-trick pony. Had the Nats sent the game to the bottom of the ninth at 7-7, they still stood a very good chance of winning with the Cardinals’ bench completely exhausted and most of the team’s best relievers having already worked. Instead, Johnson let Storen lose the game, a mistake he’s likely to spent the whole winter regretting.

Nationals place Jeremy Hellickson on disabled list with a sprained wrist

Jeremy Hellickson
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Nationals right-hander Jeremy Hellickson has been assigned to the 10-day disabled list after spraining his right wrist during a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday. The assignment is retroactive to August 15, though it’s not yet certain that Hellickson will be able to resume his role in the rotation after the minimum 10 days.

The 31-year-old righty was through 4 1/3 innings during Wednesday’s start when he threw a wild pitch behind the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina in the bottom of the fifth. He sprinted to cover home plate just as Harrison Bader took off from third base, and the two collided at the plate as Spencer Kieboom‘s throw home sailed over Hellickson’s head. He tumbled to the ground and rolled over his right wrist, then was forced to make a prompt exit from the field after feeling considerable soreness in his right hand.

While the X-rays returned negative, it makes sense for the Nationals to shelve Hellickson for the time being. In a best case scenario, he should miss only one turn through the rotation, provided that he’s able to work back up to full strength in the next week or so. The veteran righty is 5-3 in 18 starts this year with a 3.57 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 6.5 SO/9 across 88 1/3 innings. This will be his second official stint on the DL after missing nearly a month due to a right hamstring strain back in June.

In a corresponding move, fellow right-hander Jefry Rodriguez was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse and will fill in for Hellickson during Saturday’s set against the Marlins. Rodriguez, 25, has yet to get comfortable on the major league stage: entering Saturday, the rookie owns a 5.84 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.3 SO/9 through 24 2/3 innings.