Over the last three days, Washington Nationals fans must have felt like they were living through a real-life version of Groundhog Day, the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray in which he woke up every morning on the same day, forced to live through a nightmare over and over again.
That seems the perfect way to describe the Nationals series against the Mets. Wednesday night was the same as Tuesday night was the same as Monday afternoon. Every time the Nationals staked themselves to a lead – sometimes large, sometimes not – only to watch the bullpen let it slip through their fingers.
After Tuesday night’s nightmare blowing of a 7-1 lead, it felt impossible to feel safe at any point in Wednesday’s game. Even with Stephen Strasburg in spectacular form, with only two runs of support behind him, it felt like a matter of time before things went off the rails in the exact same was as it had the previous two games. When Strasburg allowed the game-tying homer, that sense of impeding doom only grew stronger.
Then Drew Storen came in. “I Got You Babe” played on the radio. It was Groundhog Day again.
New York Mets 5, Washington Nationals 3.
The third straight loss puts the Nationals just three games over .500 and pushes them to seven games back of the division lead with just 23 left to play. It puts their elimination number at a mere 17. To say the outlook is bleak at this point would be the understatement of the century.
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Everyone that follows the team knew going in that this series would likely go a long way in deciding the NL East winner, and the Nationals had reason to feel good about their chances. By all accounts, they had momentum: They were just coming off a sweep of the Braves, and they’d whittled down the Mets lead to four games. Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell welcomed everyone to the pennant race. Hope ran high in the nation’s capital.
That hope seems long gone now. The fact is, it would have been bad enough to lose all three games to the Mets in any fashion, but to lose it in the way that the Nationals did just makes the sweep all the more painful. Losing sucks. Losing three games where you held a lead late into the game? That’s soul-crushing. Coming back from that sort of beating would require the baseball equivalent of Batman coming back from having his back broken by Bane.
Wednesday night, as the game ticked toward it’s inevitable close, two sounds could be heard clearly in Nationals Park. The first was a loud chorus of boos for Drew Storen. The second was a chant of “Let’s go Mets” by opposing fans. It was salt on an open wound, just a painful reminder that the nightmare still hadn’t ended.
All the Nationals can do now is wake up tomorrow and hope that it’s not Groundhog Day once again.