The strange series of events that turned the tides in the Nationals-Cubs game has never before happened in MLB history.
The Chicago Cubs beat the Washington Nationals, 9-8, in a come-from-behind win in Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday to advance in the playoffs.
In the process, the Nationals suffered a unique and particularly cruel collapse unlike anything baseball has ever seen.
After taking a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, everything came undone for the Nationals in a fifth inning, that according to Yahoo's Jeff Passan, via Baseball-Reference, has never happened in MLB history.
The inning began with Nationals ace Max Scherzer filling in for relief duty. After he recorded two outs things went awry. Wilson Contreras hit an infield single, followed by a single from Ben Zobrist to move Contreras to second.
With two men on, Addison Russell sent a sizzler up the third baseline and into left field, bringing home Contreras and Zobrist to move the score to 5-4.
But that was just the beginning.
The Nationals then intentionally walked Jason Heyward, bringing up Javier Baez. On what would have been strike three, Baez'z bat hit Nationals catcher Matt Wieters in the helmet, and the ball went by Wieters. As Wieters retrieved the ball, he over threw first base and the backup from second baseman Daniel Murphy, sending the ball into right field as Russell scored and Heyward moved to third.
Here's the play, via MLB:
The inning got even wackier from there. On the next batter, Wieters was called for catcher's interference after his glove hit Tommy LaStella's bat, loading the bases. On the next at-bat, Scherzer hit Jon Jay, sending him to first and bringing in a run to make it 7-4.
The Nationals finally got out of the inning on the next at-bat, but the damage was done. Though they went onto score four more runs, they couldn't stop the bleeding as the Cubs scored two more over the course of the game. Trailing 9-8 in the bottom of the ninth, the Nationals went down 1-2-3 to end the game and their season.
Again, in 2.7 million half-innings in Baseball-Reference's database, the sequence of an intentional walk, a passed-ball strikeout, catcher's interference, and a hit-by-pitch in consecutive at bats has never played out before.
According to The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, the Nationals believed Baez's bat hitting Wieters should have resulted in a dead ball, thus ending the inning. However, the home plate umpire said that such a play only applied to stolen bases. If the ball that went past Wieters had been ruled a dead ball, the inning would have ended and the Nationals would have gotten out of the inning trailing 5-4.
After the game Scherzer described the collapse, saying: "This game’s cruel sometimes the way things can happen … This one burns. I don’t know how else to describe it. You’re just gonna be sitting there kicking yourself the whole offseason."
The Cubs, for the third year in a row, move onto the NLCS to the play the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Nationals, meanwhile, for the 13th year in a row, won't advance in the playoffs.