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The Nats look to exorcise the demons of the 2012 NLDS

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Today, October 12, is the day the Washington Nationals can advance past the NLDS for the first time in their history when they play the Cubs at Nats Park.

Today, October 12, is also the anniversary of their losing Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals at Nats Park. A loss that not only eliminated them but which also made the record books as the Nats blew the biggest lead in an elimination game in postseason history.

Gio Gonzalez started Game 5 in 2012 and was staked to a 6-0 lead after three innings thanks to home runs from Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, and Michael Morse. He’d leave having given up three runs — not spectacular, but not terrible — and the Nationals would carry a two-run lead into the ninth, twice coming within one strike of advancing. It was not to be, however, as Drew Storen melted down, the Cardinals scored four runs, the plastic which had been hung for the champagne celebration in the Nats’ clubhouse was hastily removed and the Cardinals boarded a charter for San Francisco for the NLCS.

Dusty Baker has yet to announce who his starter is today, but Gonzalez may get the call once again. He’ll no doubt say that he’s not thinking of that game in 2012, but how could one not? How can any of the fans at that ballpark who remember that game not, especially if the Nats jump out to an early lead?

But thinking about a thing is not the same thing as worrying about it, and objective-minded Nats fans should worry less now about holding a lead than they have at any time in their franchise’s history. Stephen Strasburg’s gem yesterday not only gave the team new life, but it helped keep the bullpen rested. Ryan Madson threw 27 pitches and Sean Doolittle 12, but each are certainly available tonight. So too is Brandon Kintzler. So too is Tanner Roark if Gonzalez gets the start and vice-versa. The Nats will also have Max Scherzer, who was prepared to throw an inning of relief if necessary yesterday, ready to do the same today. With no regard for going long in this game and the possibility of no tomorrow, Scherzer will be a terrifying presence for Cubs hitters if pressed into action.

If there is anything for the Nats to worry about today it’s the bats. Yesterday’s win was great, but the offense was still basically moribund. As a club, Washington is hitting .130 in this series. Bryce Harper is 2-for-15. Daniel Murphy is 2-for-16. Anthony Rendon is 2-for-14. Ryan Zimmerman is 3-for-16. At least one of those guys has to have a better game tonight or else Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who tossed seven shutout innings in Game 1, is going to have an easy time of it.

Most Nats fans won’t have an easy time of it, though. No matter how big of a lead the Nats have and no matter how late they hold it. They’ve been here before. Five years ago today, in fact, and they will not be calm until the final out is recorded. They learned the hard way that the game isn’t over until it’s truly over.

The Adam Eaton/Todd Frazier feud continues

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Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton and Mets third baseman Todd Frazier had to be separated in between innings yesterday in New York, MASN’s Dan Kolko reported. Nothing happened other than an exchange of words, but it continued a years-long beef between the two players.

Julia Karron of NBC Sports Washington chronicled the Eaton-Frazier history. Things began in 2016 when Eaton tried to step up as the leader of a rebuilding White Sox team, but Frazier — whose locker was next to Eaton’s — wasn’t buying it. The two came to blows in the clubhouse and had to be separated.

In 2018, Eaton slid hard into second baseman Phillip Evans, injuring Evans in the process. The Mets were upset that their player was injured and felt Eaton had violated the “Chase Utley rule.” Later that month, the Mets exacted revenge as Zack Wheeler threw at Eaton. He missed and Eaton ended up walking. As Eaton made his way to first base, Frazier yelled some choice words across the diamond. After the game, Eaton said of Frazier, “When he usually talks or chips, usually he says it just loud enough that you can hear him but you can’t understand him. So I’ll just leave it at that.” Eaton was hit in the hip by a Wheeler pitch later in the game. MLB found Eaton’s slide to be legal.

After Monday’s game, Eaton said of Frazier (via NBC Sports Washington), “He must really like me cause he wants to get my attention seems like every time we come here.”

Meanwhile, Frazier said to the media (via Yahoo’s Matt Ehalt), “You ask guys when I played for the White Sox in 2016, ask all 23 of those guys, they know what happened, for (Eaton) to even talk after that, I don’t know how you talk after that.” Frazier continued, “Men usually settle it on the field, they don’t need to talk about it. He started it, coming at me with that kind of, I’m a man, I got a mortgage to pay, two kids. Pay off your mortgage, I don’t know what to tell you.” He added, “Immaturity. If you know Adam, like every team he’s been on, you hear what people say, you understand it. I was part of it for a year and a half.”

Can we just get these guys a reality TV show already?