Nationals add another bizarre chapter to playoff disappointments

WASHINGTON — Max Scherzer emerged from the bullpen to protect a lead, and Bryce Harper batted with the bases loaded. Again and again, the Nationals had the defending World Series champions on the ropes.

For Washington’s tortured fans, it was all just another setup for a crushing playoff defeat.

Scherzer allowed four runs in an exasperating inning of relief, and the Nationals’ repeated attempts to rally came up maddeningly short in a 9-8 loss early Friday morning to the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of their NL Division Series.

Scherzer called it a “gut punch” — and a feeling all too familiar. Washington was eliminated in the NLDS for the fourth time in six years, including a trio of Game 5 losses at home. The Nationals haven’t won a playoff series since moving to the nation’s capital from Montreal in 2005.

“Here we are in Game 5, play our hearts out, everybody lays it on the line, everybody’s fighting to do everything they can and we lose a nail-biter of a game again,” Scherzer said. “This game’s cruel sometimes just the way things can happen. What a series.”

This chapter of post-season disappointment may be the wildest yet. There was Jayson Werth whiffing on a line drive to left field, pinch-hitter Adam Lind grounding into a comeback-killing double play and backup catcher Jose Lobaton getting picked off first base to erase another golden chance.

“It was just a series of bad events,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It really hurts to lose like that.”

Michael A. Taylor had a three-run homer and an RBI single after helping the NL East champions stay …read more


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