Max Scherzer's relief appearance in Game 5 led to another Nats meltdown

Big League Stew

The Washington Nationals were never meant to play in the National League Championship Series. That’s not an official rule, but it certainly seems true based on the team’s recent history.

That Nationals suffered yet another excruciating playoff meltdown against the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday. And if you’re a seasoned Nationals fan who believes you’re numb to their failures by now … you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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In order for this to truly be a Nats meltdown, it had to start with some optimism. Indeed, things looked pretty great for the Nationals entering the fifth. They held a 4-3 lead at the start of the inning, and their best pitcher, Max Scherzer, was coming on in relief. What could go wrong?

At first, nothing. Scherzer got a ground out against Kris Bryant and a fly out against Anthony Rizzo to quickly put two outs on the board. That’s when all hell broke loose.

Max Scherzer had a rough inning in Game 5 of the NLDS. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Max Scherzer had a rough inning in Game 5 of the NLDS. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Willson Contreras singled against Scherzer to start the rally. Ben Zobrist came on as a pinch-hitter, and added a single of his own. With men on first and second, shortstop Addison Russell doubled down the third base line to bring in both runs, giving the Cubs a 5-4 lead.

Pretty brutal, right? We’re just getting started here.

After falling behind on Jason Heyward, the Nationals opted to intentionally walk the outfielder to take their chances with Javy Baez. It paid off, as Baez swung and missed at three straight pitches.

Only problem is that the third strike hit the dirt and got away from catcher Matt Wieters. The catcher scrambled back, grabbed the ball and wildly threw to first to try and nab Baez. He not only was late with his throw, but also off target. The ball sailed into the outfield, scoring Russell from second. The Cubs now led 6-4.

But wait, there’s more.

The next batter, Tommy La Stella, reached on catcher’s interference to load the bases. With the bases juiced, Scherzer hit Jon Jay to bring in another run.

The Cubs led 7-4 after one of the most unusual stretches we’ve seen in a baseball game.

Bryant, who started off the inning with a ground out, came up again. With the bases still loaded, the MVP candidate … weakly popped out the short to end the threat.

The inning finally ended, but the damage was done. The Cubs scored four runs on three hits, a walk, a hit-by-pitch a dropped third strike and a catcher’s interference.

Scherzer’s terrible fifth inning is on par with Pete Kozma’s hit in 2012, Aaron Barrett’s wild pitch in 2014 and the club’s terrible inning (in which six pitchers took the mound) against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016.

They say you can’t predict baseball, but that’s not entirely true. When the Nationals are playing a decisive playoff game, you can count on some type of disaster to ruin their chances.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

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