After NLDS Game 2 Win, Can These Nationals Finally End Franchise’s October Heartbreak?

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Usually, when Nationals reliever Ryan Madson comes out of a game, he heads straight for the team’s clubhouse, where he can ice, stretch, and otherwise decompress after his outing. But as he was pulled from the top of the eighth inning of Game 2 of the NLDS, leaving incoming reliever Oliver Perez to deal with a man on and Anthony Rizzo at the plate with one out, he decided to stay put in the dugout. Despite his team’s predicament—Washington trailed the Cubs, 3–1, and had only two innings left to avoid falling into an 0–2 series hole—Madson had a feeling that something good was on the horizon, and he didn’t want to miss it. “I wanted to stay out there, because I didn’t think we were going to lose,” he said afterward.

Madson’s optimism is admirable, but given the history of his team, it can’t help but feel quixotic. As far as Nationals postseason memories go, you can count the happy ones on one hand and the bad ones on all the fingers and toes of the 43,860 people who were in attendance at Nationals Park on Saturday night. Since baseball returned to the nation’s capital in 2005, the playoffs have been nasty, brutish and short for Washington: three NL East titles followed by three first-round exits, most of which

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