It may not matter when the final runs are on the board, but there can be no question that, going into tonight’s winner-take-all Game Five of the NLDS, the pressure is squarely on the Nationals.
Consider the following:
- The Nationals have never won a postseason series. Even if you go back to their time as the Expos, you’d have to stretch to say they won a special “postseason” series during the 1981 season that was split by a strike. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say this franchise has never really won a postseason series.
- Nationals manager Dusty Baker last won a World Series in that very 1981 season, but as a player with the Dodgers. As a manager, he’s been to the World Series just once – in 2002 – and lost.
- In fact, that Nationals manager has lost his last nine straight chances to clinch a postseason series:
Dusty Baker's teams have now lost nine straight times when they had a chance to clinch.
That's a Major League record. pic.twitter.com/lYlmRWRThs
— ESPN (@espn) October 14, 2016
- The Nationals came into this series as the clear favorites, with an opportunity to knock off the reigning world champs. This is their fourth time in the NLDS in the last six seasons, and they have yet to win one. So many very good teams, and so little to show for it in the postseason.
- As we saw last year with the Cubs, it sure seems like, when there’s a lot of pressure, playing in front of the home crowd can be something of a hinderance, rather than a benefit. The Cubs figure to be pretty darn chill – relatively speaking – heading into tonight’s game.
- If the Cubs lose tonight, they return home with a still-very-recent World Series trophy in tow. If the Nationals lose tonight, heads might roll.
In the end, maybe the pressure will help push the Nationals. Or maybe it will make them play just a bit tighter than the Cubs, especially if the Cubs can grab an early lead.