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.

Corey Kluber removed from his rehab game

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Part of the reason the Cleveland Indians could trade away a pitcher like Trevor Bauer in the middle of a playoff race is because they have reinforcements on the way. The primary reinforcement is Corey Kluber, who has been out since May 1 with a broken arm. Based on what happened yesterday it’s possible that the Tribe will have to wait a bit longer for that particular reinforcement to arrive.

Kluber was the starter in yesterday’s game between Triple-A Columbus and Charlotte. He managed only one inning, however, walking two and not allowing a run before being lifted due to abdominal tightness. It was said that he was removed for precautionary reasons, so it may not be an injury as opposed to everyone simply being spooked. He’ll be reevaluated today.

It’s unclear whether this will delay his return to the Indians, though it obviously isn’t a good development. As it stood before yesterday, Cleveland had hoped Kluber could make big league starts in September and be ready for the postseason.