WASHINGTON (AP) — Bryce Harper tried batting with gloves and without gloves. He wore red-tinted contact lenses, both in the field and at the plate, to help ward off the dreaded “Sun Monster.”
He went 0 for 5.
At least his misery had company. His Washington Nationals went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base. Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse were among those who also failed to deliver.
The nation’s capital waited 79 years to host a postseason game. It’s still waiting for one in which its team actually scores. The Nationals were shut out 8-0 Wednesday by the St. Louis Cardinals, falling behind 2-1 in the best-of-five NL division series after a pair of big-time shellackings by the defending champions.
The season ends if Washington doesn’t win Thursday, when Ross Detwiler faces Kyle Lohse in Game 4.
“It’s going to be tough to score if you don’t hit,” Werth said. “But I believe in this team, I believe in these guys. We’ve been here all year. Over a 162-game season, we were the best team in baseball. I still feel that way.”
Washington starter Edwin Jackson didn’t stand a chance in the head-to-head matchup against Chris Carpenter, who was his usual winning postseason self despite missing almost the entire regular season due to a nerve problem that required surgery. Taking the mound for only the fourth time this year, Carpenter allowed seven hits and walked two across his 5 2-3 innings to improve to 10-2 over his career in the postseason. He kept letting men on base, but he never let them get to home plate.
“He made pitches when he needed to,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “It’s easy to sit here and say we need to get big hits, but when you have a guy like that making pitches, he’s not just letting you get hits.”
Jackson helped the Cardinals win a World Series title a year ago, but his line Wednesday — five innings, eight hits, four runs — no doubt had the Nationals Park-record 45,017 red-wearing, towel-twirling fans pining for Stephen Strasburg, the ace whom the Nationals brass shut down early this season as a precaution in his return from Tommy John surgery.
“I didn’t feel like I was out of rhythm. I didn’t feel like I couldn’t throw strikes,” said Jackson, whose biggest mistake was a fastball deposited by rookie Pete Kozma in the first row beyond left field for a three-run homer in the second inning. “I just missed across the plate with a couple of balls, and it cost me.”
But Strasburg could have made a difference in the outcome only if his team could have produced a run. For that matter, the Nationals have been outscored 22-7 in the series.
Harper’s woeful day dropped him to 1 for 15 in the series. The teen All-Star went to the plate with an ash bat and no gloves in the first inning and flied out to right. He said the tinted contact lenses helped him fight off the glare in center field on a sunny day — he recently coined the phrase “Sun Monster” to describe the aggravating orb — but they didn’t do much for his batting average.
But don’t expect him to show any frustration over it.
“I felt good today, just missing pitches and having good ABs, and nothing I can do,” he said. “I just missed a couple.”
There were plenty of others who just missed. Morse came up in the fifth with the bases loaded and two out. He flied to right. Werth was at the plate in the sixth with two on against hard-throwing reliever Trevor Rosenthal and got fooled by an offspeed pitch, fouling out to the first baseman.
“He threw a good hook. I haven’t seen that pitch from him yet,” Werth said. “I’d like to just foul that ball off, but it stayed in the yard. That was the difference in the at-bat.”
Not since the original Senators lost to the New York Giants in the 1933 World Series had big league baseball stretched past the regular season in Washington. Back then, of course, there was no MLB Network in HD to carry a game the way there was Wednesday; indeed, television itself was in its infancy, period. And spectators in attendance way back then could not enjoy a beer at the ballpark, because prohibition wasn’t repealed until a couple of months later.
With the Capitol Dome rising beyond left field, the crowd of today was ready to root, root, root for the home team, breaking into chants of “Let’s go, Nats!” after player introductions and again after a four-jet flyover. And, boy, did they boo — when Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay was announced as the game’s first batter, when catcher Yadier Molina trotted to chat with Carpenter, even when Carpenter paused between pitches to tie his red-and-gray right shoe.
Most of all, they booed when Washington’s Danny Espinosa was ruled out at first after bunting in the second. TV replays showed that Espinosa did beat third baseman David Freese’s throw, but the call was missed by Jim Joyce — an umpire best known for blowing a call at first base to ruin Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga’s bid for a perfect game in 2010.
Washington manager Davey Johnson went out to argue.
“He said he thought he got it right,” Johnson said. “I said, ‘Check the replay.’ He said, ‘I don’t have the luxury of doing that right now.’ But it was just one play.”
Even another victory by Teddy Roosevelt in the Presidents race failed to give the Nationals a lift. The team let Mr. Rough Rider win the mascot sprint in the fourth inning for the first time ever in last week’s regular season finale.
Now Teddy has a two-game winning streak. The Nationals, however, have a two-game skid.
“We lost another battle,” Johnson said. “We got a couple more battles we need to win, and it comes from our pitching. Detwiler has certainly got the stuff to pitch a good game. He’s pitched some quality games this year. So look forward to tomorrow.”
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