So close, yet so far away.
The Washington Nationals fell Thursday to the Chicago Cubs 9-8 in the decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park — a disappointing end to the season for a team that had championship aspirations.
It started as a night to remember for Washington, as Michael A. Taylor belted a three-run homer in the second inning for a 4-1 lead and the Nats seemingly on the way to a win.
But the Cubs exploded offensively, hanging nine runs on the Nationals after scoring just eight combined in the series’ previous four games.
It was the fourth first-round loss in four playoff appearances for the Nats since 2012. They’ve been unable to get over the hump and advance to the National League Championship Series since 1981, when the franchise was the Montreal Expos.
“The Cubs are a great team, they’re world champs, they know how to win, but so do we,” said Nationals superstar Bryce Harper, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI but struck out to end the game and Washington’s season.
As the Nationals trudge into familiar territory after yet another postseason heartbreak, what does this mean for manager Dusty Baker, whose contract expired at season’s end?
Baker-led teams have now lost an MLB-record 10 consecutive closeout games, dating back to 1993, and he arguably was outclassed by Cubs counterpart Joe Maddon.
For his part, Harper refused to comment about Baker’s future: “Those decisions come from up top.”
As for the world champion Cubs, they’ll continue their title defense against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS beginning Saturday.