Nationals lose 18-inning heartbreaker as Giants take 2-0 NLDS lead

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Oct 4, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder

Bryce Harper

(34) reacts after flying out in the 12th inning against the San Francisco Giants in game two of the 2014 NLDS playoff baseball game at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports

The Nationals had the game locked up. One out left, with nobody on and Jordan Zimmermann having retired 20 straight. The series was set to be all tied up at 1. But it is never that easy in the playoffs, as Nationals fans know all too well.

With two outs and one man on, Drew Storen came in to close it out. Buster Posey then ripped a single to center, to give the Giants runners on first and second. Former World Series MVP, Pablo Sandoval, followed and ripped a double down the line in left. Joe Panik scored easily from second, but a Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond relay was able to nail Buster Posey at the plate to keep the game tied.

The game slipped right through their fingertips, and in the 18th, after looking at ball three that was nearly strike three, Brandon Belt crushed a home run to the second deck in right field, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead, and the eventual win and 2-0 series lead.

The Nationals pitched well enough to win, but they didn’t hit and will now head to San Francisco needing to win both games to keep the series alive.

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Jordan Zimmermann dominated Giants hitters for 8 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked just two. The Giants managed just three hits on the night off of him, all of which came in the first three innings. Zimmermann retired 20 in a row before walking a batter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, thus ending his night.

The Nationals offense struggled all night. They sent a few balls that looked to be headed for the stands, but the wind always knocked them down. They had very few opportunities with runners in scoring position, and squandered those that they did. It just wasn’t meant to be on this night.

The game itself was the longest in postseason history, going over five hours and lasting 18 innings. It started as an old school pitchers duel.

The Nationals’ hitters simply did not hit well enough. They struggled all game for a second straight night to figure out a Giants starting pitcher. Tim Hudson — who earlier in the week implied the Nats lacked the ‘cajones’ a team needs to do well in the playoffs — and the Giants bullpen shut down the Nationals offense all night.

They were, however, able to get their lone run across in the third.

Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with a double into the left field corner, waving his arms to pump up the crowd as he reached second. Zimmermann followed, attempting to get move the runner over, but he struck out on a bunt foul. Next came Denard Span, who grounded out to first for the second out of the inning, but moved Cabrera to third.

Anthony Rendon came up, looking to drive in the lead run. The Nationals were 0-7 up to that point in the series with RISP. But Rendon, who was 4-4 on the day, came through in the clutch with a base hit just past the glove of the diving Brandon Crawford at first.

But the Giants came back and the two teams would play a second set of nine innings.

The extra innings had some excitement early with both teams getting runners on but failing to score.

In the 10th, Asdrubal Cabrera was ejected for arguing a called third strike. Nationals manager Matt Williams then came out to protect Cabrera and saw his night end with an ejection as well. But as the game went on, the crowd and both teams then settled into extra innings with little excitement, similar to the middle of a normal nine inning game.

The Nationals even ran a second presidents race in the 13th.

Yusmero Petit and Craig Stammen went head to head as they each posted scoreless 13th, 14th and 15th innings for their ball clubs.

A positive sign came when Nationals fans everywhere took a collective “sigh of relief” as former closer, Rafeal Soriano, incredibly, looked like the Soriano of old. His pitches were down, his slider was moving, and the Giants went down 1-2-3.

Anthony Rendon was the lone bright spot offensively for the Nats, setting a franchise record with four hits in a postseason game.

But with Belt’s home run, the dream for the night was lost. A game that seemed won, was lost. Heads were hung, hearts dropped and it was eerily familiar to 2012.

But there is still hope Nats fans! The Nats will throw Doug Fister on Monday against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner in hopes of keeping their season alive.

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