Leftovers from one of the most thrilling games of the year

Before yesterday’s must-win Game 4, reliever Michael Gonzalez, one of the Nationals’ veteran leaders, walked past Jayson Werth and asked him how he was feeling.

“I said, ‘I feel like I want to play tomorrow,’ ” Werth said. “And we get that chance.”

They sure do. The Nationals will play a Game 5 tonight in prime time, a decisive game that will send either them or the Cardinals home for the winter.

The Nats wouldn’t be in this spot today if not for one of their best-played games of the entire season yesterday.

It was a game that saw Ross Detwiler allow just three hits and one unearned run against one of the league’s most dangerous offenses, three Nationals relievers (one who isn’t even really a reliever) punch out eight batters in three innings, a diving catch by Ian Desmond behind third base which kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard in the top of the ninth and one sweet swing from Werth that sent everyone home happy.

Detwiler had been out of the game for more than an hour by the time Werth sent a 3-2 pitch from Lance Lynn into the visitor’s bullpen, but he wasn’t down in the clubhouse icing his arm or going through any post-start routines in the trainer’s room. He was right there in the dugout, on the top step near the first base bag, and was one of the first ones out onto the field when Werth’s ball left the yard.

“That was one of the best moments in my life, right there,” Detwiler said. “That was incredible.”

Detwiler, of course, was essentially the replacement for Stephen Strasburg in the postseason rotation. He doesn’t pitch his masterful Game 4 if Strasburg is still active.

Jordan Zimmermann normally throws around 94 mph with his fastball, and his slider sits around 88-89 mph. Making the first relief appearance of his major league career, a juiced-up Zimmermann lit up the radar gun, sitting at 97 with his fastball and spinning his slider in at 91 mph. After striking out his third batter of the seventh inning, the normally stoic Zimmermann hopped off the mound, punched his fist in the air and let out a scream.

“I’ve never seen Jordan show that much emotion,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “I told him, he’s going to have to be a bullpen guy and grow a goatee and do something crazy because I’ve never seen (him) fist pump or anything like that.”

Would Zimmermann be ready today in relief if he’s called upon yet again?

“I’m ready for anything,” he said, a huge smile stretched across his face.

The Nationals’ offense still has a ways to go. They entered yesterday’s game having gone just 3-for-24 in the series with runners in scoring position. They left the park last night still having gone 3-for-24 in the series with runners in scoring position.

That’s right, the Nats didn’t have a single at-bat with a runner standing on second or third yesterday. Somehow, they still won the game, thanks to the dynamite starting pitching, three fantastic innings of relief and two huge swings by Adam LaRoche and Werth.

They give the ball tonight to Gio Gonzalez, their 21-game winner.

“We don’t see a Game 5 if we don’t win Game 4,” Gonzalez said yesterday.

The Nats won Game 4. Now, Game 5 is staring them right in the face.

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