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Thom Loverro: Nationals have gut-wrenching introduction to postseason baseball

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Photo - Alex Brandon/AP
Nationals closer Drew Storen gave up four runs in the ninth inning of Friday night's Game 5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Alex Brandon/AP Nationals closer Drew Storen gave up four runs in the ninth inning of Friday night's Game 5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Sports,MLB,Nationals,Thom Loverro

Washington fans, you wanted baseball. You wanted meaningful games. You wanted playoffs.

Well, you got it.

It doesn't seem so painful when it's someone else's team you're watching from the comfort of your living room, does it?

How can something so good hurt so bad?

The Washington Nationals, seemingly with Game 5 of the National League Division Series in hand Friday night, watched a six-run lead evaporate into an 9-7 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, ending what had been a glorious season with a punch to the gut that surely no one here was prepared for.

Washington buried the needle in both directions Thursday and Friday. It went from the unbridled joy of the Nationals' 2-1 win over the Cardinals on Thursday before a packed house at Nationals Park to even the series at 2-2 to the devastating depression that engulfed the area Friday night as another full Nationals Park crowd witnessed the stunning loss.

It's over now, people. Go back to your homes. Nothing for you to see here anymore.

It's going to hurt for a while, though. It was there within reach -- a trip to the NL Championship Series and more postseason baseball for a city that hadn't experienced it for 79 years.

We can detail the autopsy if you like -- starting with the blown 6-0 lead and the four runs given up by their closer, Drew Storen, in the ninth inning -- but who cares why the season died? It's just over.

If it was too much for you to deal with, better bow out now because we'll all be back here again -- maybe next year or the year after that.

The 2013 Washington Nationals will be more talented, deeper and more experienced than the team that won 98 games this year, and there will be more postseason baseball to come. No one wants to hear that following such a miserable ending. But the next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing, and the next time there may be a different outcome.

Who knows? It can change just like it did Friday night, and despite all the second guessing and judgments, postseason baseball has a randomness to it that can be maddening. Ask Atlanta Braves fans.

There are questions to be asked about that future, and the main one is whether Davey Johnson will be managing those teams. He was a big part of the success of this Nationals team, which probably was a season ahead of schedule in terms of success.

And, of course, the pain will be greater because of the attacks and ridicule the Nationals will receive now from the Stephen Strasburg Society of Baseball Righteousness for protecting their young pitcher.

That pain will pass. Strasburg will be alive and well and pitching next Opening Day, with no shutdown plan for the season and a better team around him than this year.

What happens in October, though, is anybody's guess.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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