How the Heartbreaking Loss to the Cardinals Will Help the Nationals Long-Term

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIOctober 24, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12:  Catcher Kurt Suzuki #24 talks with pitcher Gio Gonzalez #47 of the Washington Nationals in the fifth inning while taking on the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 12, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals lost a heartbreaker in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, blowing a two-run lead in the ninth inning and eventually losing 9-7 to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Nationals surprised all of baseball with their stellar season, a campaign that saw them win 97 games and lock down the top spot in the National League for the playoffs.

It's obvious that Davey Johnson, Mike Rizzo and the rest of the organization are disappointed about the team's unfortunate playoff elimination, but there may actually be some positives to take from the Game 5 loss.

We all know that Stephen Strasburg was shut down controversially as the season was coming to a close. Some blamed his absence—fairly or unfairly—as the reason for the Nationals' early exit.

With him back and at full force next season, the Nationals will have no excuses when they lose. It's either win or admit defeat. No longer will fans of the organization be able to blame the loss on someone that didn't even throw a single pitch.

That in itself is a positive. Strasburg is the best pitcher on the team, and keeping him healthy in the long run had to be paramount for the club.

The Nationals had never made a postseason—or even posted a winning record—since they moved back to Washington prior to the 2005 season. They lacked experience against the Cardinals, and that showed in Game 5's most crucial moments.

While winning would have been the more popular option for the organization, sometimes it takes losing a heartbreaker to gain the most experience. Through learning how to accept defeat, the team should also learn how to overcome it and become winners.

Playoff experience actually goes a long way in determining each season's champion, so the Nationals should be much better off if they play well enough to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

The Nationals should continue to rise over the next couple of seasons. As Bryce Harper and the rest of the team's young stars continue to blossom, the Nationals will establish themselves as perennial favorites in the National League.

Winning in the playoffs will be the only way to maintain that title, though. Despite their loss in the NLDS, the Nationals have learned a lot and are well on their way to an improved postseason performance in 2013.