SAN FRANCISCO -- The Nationals' World Series hopes came to an end Tuesday night as they lost to the Giants, 3-2, in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, eliminating the club from postseason play.
"This is tough," center fielder Denard Span said. "We didn't play well all series. That's the bottom line. The Giants made the least amount of mistakes. We made too many mistakes. The little things added up. They were a better team for these four games."
Washington's bullpen was reliable most of the season, but in the seventh inning, it faltered, allowing the game-deciding run. With the score tied at 2 and one out, Matt Thornton allowed consecutive singles to Joe Panik and Buster Posey. Manager Matt Williams then decided to bring in Aaron Barrett, who walked Hunter Pence to load the bases. With Pablo Sandoval at the plate, Barrett threw a wild pitch, scoring Panik to give the Giants the lead.
"I thought I made some pretty good pitches," Barrett said. "I battled back to 3-2 [in the count]. I guess I tried to do a little too much there and ended up walking [Pence]. I tried to slow myself down as much as possible. It was great atmosphere. I just tried to do a little too much. I didn't want to walk him there, obviously. I tried to challenge him there."
San Francisco nearly scored another run soon thereafter. As he was trying to walk Sandoval intentionally, Barrett threw a wild pitch. Posey tried to score on the play, but was thrown out by Wilson Ramos on a close play at the plate that was confirmed by a crew chief review.
"I got lucky, obviously, with the wild pitch," Barrett said. "The bottom line is I didn't make pitches when I had to, and it ended up costing us the game."
Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez started the game and had one bad inning, and it proved costly. Gonzalez wasn't hit hard, but he had serious problems fielding his position.
The Nats would tie the score in seventh inning off right-hander Hunter Strickland. With one out, Bryce Harper came to the plate and hit a mammoth home run that landed in McCovey Cove. It was the 104th home run that went in the water behind the right-field wall at AT&T Park, but just the third in postseason play.
"He was on some fastballs this series," Posey said.
A ninth-inning rally came up short after Harper drew a two-out walk but Ramos then grounded out to second to end the comeback attempt, and the Nationals' season. For the second time in three years, the Nats had the best record in the NL but then came up short in the NLDS.
The Giants held off a late charge, quieting the crowd in an NL-record ninth straight playoff W. After Jake Peavy's 5 2/3 scoreless, Hunter Strickland nixed a threat before allowing two Nats shots, one a big blast by Bryce Harper, and the 'pen escaped in the eighth before a clean ninth.
Brandon Belt's shot in the 18th decided the longest MLB playoff game (6:23) and put the Giants one win from the NLCS. Nine frames earlier, Pablo Sandoval sent it to extras with a two-out knock off Nats closer Drew Storen, who couldn't save it for a dominant Jordan Zimmermann. The game tied a record set by the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros in Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS, becoming only the second 18-inning postseason game in MLB history. Tim Hudson started on the road in both (and Adam LaRoche played 1B in both). Yusmeiro Petit became the first pitcher to throw at least 6 shutout innings of relief & win a postseason game since Pedro Martinez in 1999. In what will likely prove a footnote to the larger craziness of the game, Nats manager Matt Williams and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera were ejected from the game in the bottom of the 10th for arguing balls and strikes.
Locked in a scoreless duel in the seventh, the Nationals scored two on Madison Bumgarner's wild throw to third on a sac bunt. Asdrubal Cabrera added an RBI, Bryce Harper homered in the ninth and Drew Storen finished it for Doug Fister, extending the NLDS in San Francisco.
After a Bryce Harper homer tied the game in the seventh, reliever Aaron Barrett's wild pitch with the bases full in the bottom of the frame allowed Joe Panik to score the go-ahead run, and the Giants' bullpen held off the gritty Nats to secure a spot in the NLCS vs. the Cards.
Williams' rough showing was a reminder that he, too, was just a rookie, having never managed a team at any level prior to this season, or even served as bench coach. Mattingly was once similarly green, though he did have experience as bench coach with the Yankees under Joe Torre, who mentored him both in New York and Los Angeles prior to Mattingly's taking the reins for the 2011 season. Despite his subsequent experience at the helm, he hardly covered himself in glory during the Dodgers' brief run.