The Cardiac Nats Are Back
Nationals fans who followed the team closely last season were introduced to a term that would carry throughout the year. With the propensity of the team to play close, back-and-forth, stress-filled, ulcer-inducing nail-biters, the phrase “Cardiac Nats” began being thrown around. The 2012 edition of the Nats were 27-21 in one-run games, and 13-7 in extra innings, playing past the ninth a league-high 20 times.
It didn’t take long for the Cardiac Nats to resurface in 2013.
Just five games into the season, Washington played one of the most gut-wrenching, roller coaster contests in recent memory, watching a 5-1, eighth-inning lead slip away, only to weather the storm and win, 7-6 in 11 frames.
One can only imagine what it would have been like to lose such a game, a thought neither Ian Desmond nor Jayson Werth were willing to entertain afterwards. If the afternoon itself hadn’t been filled with enough drama, the Nationals were coming off the heels of a 15-0 loss the night before, the most lopsided margin of defeat in franchise history since the team moved to Washington.
So what do you do the day after you get beat by 15 runs, then watch a four-run cushion disappear in the late innings? You get back up off the mat.
Desmond, whose pair of errors led to a couple of unearned Reds runs, made sure he took advantage of the opportunity afforded him for redemption leading off the 11th inning. He worked the count to 2-0, then fouled back two consecutive fastballs on big swings. With the count level at 2-2, he destroyed a hanging breaking ball from J.J. Hoover, sending it soaring into the upper deck in left field at Great American Ball Park, an estimated 439 feet from where it left the bat.
Two batters later, Wilson Ramos absolutely demolished his second home run of the game, a 3-2 fastball off the netting behind and above the home bullpen, just to the left of straightaway center field. There are some cheap home runs to be found here in Cincinnati, but Washington’s pair of 11th-inning blasts would have been long gone in any park in the game.
Ramos’ redemption may have been even greater than Desmond’s. After all, his last Major League home run came right here, in Cincinnati, on May 12 of last year, when he tied the game with a solo home run in the fifth inning. Just two frames later, while racing to the backstop to retrieve a passed ball, his foot would plant awkwardly, his knee would buckle, and his season would come to a premature end.
With the Reds scoring again in the bottom of the 11th, trimming the margin back to one and putting the tying run in scoring position, Ramos’ second blast became the difference in the game.
The dramatic Saturday affair also highlighted one of the reasons the Nationals are so good in these types of games. With all the momentum against them, Craig Stammen – arguably the fourth or fifth option in Davey Johnson’s bullpen – came on to deliver two huge innings of relief. He fanned four, including a flailing Jay Bruce to end the game, mixing a nasty, darting two-seamer with his trademark slider.
All of it, the clutch hitting, the big performance from deep in the bullpen, can mean only one thing. The Cardiac Nats are back.