The Nationals Vs. The Cubs: One Of The Strangest Half Innings In Baseball

Oct 13, 2017
Originally published on October 13, 2017 6:51 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now the story of a baseball game worthy of the Great Dismal Swamp that the nation's capital is reputed to be - in fact, not the whole game, more like a single inning. Last night, the Washington Nationals were leading the Chicago Cubs, who were batting in the fifth inning. And what happened after that was simply unbelievable. Joining me right now is Barry Svrluga, sports columnist for The Washington Post. You were there. Tell us what happened.

BARRY SVRLUGA: What we saw last night in that fifth inning was unprecedented in the history of the game. The Cubs strung together a couple of hits, but then you had really just weirdness. Max Scherzer got the Cubs' Javier Baez to swing through strike three after he had given up the lead on a couple of hits. That should've been the end of the inning.

But Matt Wieters, the catcher, allowed the ball to go through his legs. By the rule that allows a hitter to advance to first on a dropped third strike - went to first. Wieters then threw the ball into the outfield. And it just got away from there. There was a catcher's interference. There was a hit by pitch with the bases loaded. Those things had never happened in the same inning in the history of the game. They all happened to the Nationals last night.

SIEGEL: To say this was demoralizing for the Nationals' fans, if not the Nationals themselves, would be the understatement of the season. We've never seen an inning like that.

SVRLUGA: Well, and it's also in the context here, Robert, of the entire fan base across all the sport. There are people in their 20s here who have known no athletic success. It's been 20 years since a Washington team in football, baseball, basketball or hockey has played for even the conference championship, the league championship, getting into the final four.

This was the Nationals' moment to move forward in that regard. And to see it unravel in such unprecedented fashion in a way fits how Washington fans or what Washington fans expect from their team - that you take the most bizarre disaster you could come up with and then turn the dial up a couple notches. And that's what Washingtonians expect these days.

SIEGEL: As a kid, I was raised on stories of the 1941 World Series game when the Dodgers catcher dropped a third strike and the Yankees went on to win the game and the Series. I watched on television when Bill Buckner of the Red Sox let a ground ball go between his legs and the Red Sox lost their chance to win that World Series. Does this inning rate with those famous goat moments in Major League Baseball?

SVRLUGA: It fits in a - the bizarre scale. I don't think it fits in that it wasn't in the World Series. I think that's part of the frustration for Washingtonians - is that, give us a chance to make these mistakes on the next stage, on the biggest stage. The things that happened in that fifth inning are things that will be discussed here for years and years and years.

SIEGEL: Barry Svrluga, sports columnist for The Washington Post, thanks for talking with us.

SVRLUGA: Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: Svrluga was at the ballpark. If you watched that inning on television, it was on TBS with play-by-play with Ernie Johnson and Ron Darling doing color.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DARLING: I mean, how crazier can you get in this inning?

ERNIE JOHNSON: We have seen just about everything.

SIEGEL: Which proved premature.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHNSON: I guess we hadn't seen everything.

DARLING: No, we hadn't.

JOHNSON: Now we have.

SIEGEL: Wait till next year.

(SOUNDBITE OF RAY BROWN'S "TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.