The stage was set. Everything was lined up for a perfect October evening at the ballpark. Jordan Zimmermann was about to toss a shutout and give the Nationals a 1-0 victory in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.
And then this story took the first of several stunning turns that transformed what was about to be as uplifting a win as the Nationals have experienced all year into a soul-crushing loss that leaves them one game from elimination.
Drew Storen, summoned by manager Matt Williams to replace Zimmermann with two outs in the ninth, blew the save. Then after what felt like a never-ending string of failed rally attempts by the Nationals, the Giants finally snapped the deadlock on Brandon Belt's leadoff homer in the top of the 18th, producing a 2-1 victory in a 6-hour, 23-minute marathon that wound up the longest game in postseason history.
Belt's homer off Tanner Roark, the eighth and final man in the Nationals' bullpen, left what remained of a sellout crowd at Nationals Park in stunned silence, fully recognizing the home team won't be coming back here again in 2014 unless it can win both Games 3 and 4 in San Francisco on Monday and Tuesday. Down 0-2 in the series, the Nats have no more margin for error.
"We've got an uphill climb," right fielder Jayson Werth said. "But I believe in this team and I believe in these guys. If anybody can do it, we can."
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