That two-out two-strike two-run single, poked into right field by Moore off St. Louis lefty Marc Rzepczynski in the eighth inning, turned what looked like a 2-1 defeat for the Nats and a loss for wild starter Gio Gonzalez, into a glorious come-from-behind win against the defending world champion Cardinals.
Suddenly, with that one key hit on a sun-drenched bad-shadow day that was brutally unfair for all hitters, the Nats had overcome their own nerves, escaped a bases-loaded none-out Cardinals rally in the bottom of the seventh, and won exactly the kind of tight postseason game that defines October success.
Now every flaw can be forgiven and spun, as victors always rewrite their own history, into key pieces of the triumph. Gonzalez’s wildness, with four walks and a wild pitch in the second inning giving the Cards all their runs as a gift — why that’s now been transformed by the alchemy of triumph into five innings of tough-it-out one-hit pitching.
What about Jayson Werth’s two inning-ending outs with the bases loaded? Who cares now? All that will be remembered in time is how Werth, it’s so convenient to be 6-foot-5, leaped above the right field fence in the sixth inning, sun in his eyes, wind blowing the long flyball over the fence, and stole a two-run homer from stunned Daniel Descalso. At the last instant, the shadow of a light standard blocked the sun and let him see the ball.
Now, instead of focusing on a few failures, the Nats can think of this first playoff win as a continuation of their 98-win excellence, their emergence as a young power. That’s how narrow a team’s postseason fate, even its sense of itself, can be. Without Moore, without his short flick of a swing, producing what he called “a flare out to right,” every event in this game would cast different shadows — and ominous ones for the Nats.
Now, instead of fretting over the unfairness of starting with two games on the road, the Nats suddenly realize that they have met every team’s goal — win one of the first two games in the other team’s park, some how, some way. Just don’t come home down 0-2. Now they can’t. If the Nats win Monday, when Jordan Zimmermann faces Jamie Garcia, it will be the Cardinals who face three games in D.C. and, perhaps, an early chilly winter.
Lets return to that key moment for which, in a sense, Washington has waited since 1933. The Nats had just escaped the bottom of the seventh inning when reliever Ryan Mattheus came in with the bases loaded and none out — then got three outs on two pitches. After a force at the plate on a grounder to short, Mattheus induced Yadier Molina to ground into a gorgeous ’round-the-horn double play, started by Ryan Zimmerman. That sent the Nats off the field jumping, with Mattheus pumping his fist.