Baker’s crew loses it in chaotic fash­ion

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - PAGE 2 - BRUCE JENK­INS

As the Chicago Cubs’ lead grew to 8-4 in the sixth in­ning of Thurs­day night’s NLDS Game 5, TBS an­a­lyst Ron Dar­ling said, “It’s start­ing to feel like a corona­tion.”

That’s one way of putting it. “Abom­i­na­tion” was the proper term from Wash­ing­ton’s an­gle. Lead­ing 4-1 on the majesty of Michael A. Tay­lor’s three-run homer, the Na­tion­als handed over this game in a pre­pos­ter­ous swirl of er­rors, mis­judg­ments and costly pitches. Some will point to cer­tain moves by man­ager Dusty Baker, but don’t put this one on him; it was truly a team ef­fort. Baker’s play­ers con­spired to lose this game, one blun­der af­ter an­other.

Par­tic­u­larly trou­bling to the Wash­ing­ton fran­chise, still with­out an NLCS ap­pear­ance since the club moved from Mon­treal de­spite four play­off ap­pear­ances in the past six sea­sons: The worst de­vel­op­ments have taken place at home. In Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS against St. Louis, the Na­tion­als gave Gio Gon­za­lez a 6-0 lead, but his deer-in-the­head­lights per­for­mance got St. Louis back in the game 6-3 — Gon­za­lez was equally dis­grace­ful Thurs­day night — and Drew Storen gave up four runs in the ninth as the Car­di­nals won 9-7.

In 2014, it was an 18-in­ning home loss to the Gi­ants, who won it on a Bran­don Belt homer, that left the Nats down 0-2 as they headed to San Fran­cisco. The se­ries ended there. And last year, it once again boiled down to an NLDS Game 5 in Wash­ing­ton. The Dodgers won 4-3 be­hind Clayton Ker­shaw’s dra­matic work in re­lief.

As chaotic as this game was, com­plete with baseball writ­ers lamely rip­ping both man­agers ev­ery five min­utes on Twit­ter, two mo­ments stand out. With the fleet Tay­lor on sec­ond in the eighth, Cubs catcher Will­son Con­tr­eras had the guts to make a snap throw to first base, where a lot could go wrong. He nailed Jose Lo­ba­ton to end the in­ning. Then there was re­liever Wade Davis throw­ing a per­fect, un­hit­table 3-and-2 curve to strike out Bryce Harper to end the game. That was trust — and, for Davis’ sev­enth out of the game, pure adren­a­line.

Why the Yan­kees have a chance against any­body: Un­like the Na­tion­als, who couldn’t bank on any re­liever other than Sean Doolit­tle, the New York bullpen steams into the ALCS hav­ing al­lowed just one run with 28 strike­outs in 172⁄3 in­nings against Cleve­land. Bruce Jenk­ins is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle columnist. Email: bjenk­ins@sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @Bruce_Jenk­ins1

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