Results tagged ‘ Danny Espinosa ’

Stepping Up

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The takeaway moment from Wednesday night’s NationalsPhillies tilt in Philadelphia will undoubtedly be Jayson Werth’s final at-bat in the top of the ninth. After electing not to throw a foul ball that had made its way to him in the batter’s circle into the crowd, Werth instead paused and lobbed it into the Washington dugout. That sparked a reign of boos from the half-empty Citizen’s Bank Park, easily the most passionate reaction of the entire evening. After Danny Espinosa struck out, leaving runners at the corners with two outs for Werth, the crowd rose to a fever pitch as their former player dug into the batter’s box.

Jayson Werth’s reemergence atop the Nationals lineup has personified the power shift in the NL East.

The Phillies had fallen behind early, thanks to a trio of Washington home runs from Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki’s second-inning blast, the Nationals third in their first eight batters of the game, gave Washington 183 home runs on the season, as the club continued to distance itself from the previous franchise record of 178 set back in 2000 in Montreal. It also gave them a 5-0 lead at which the home team slowly chipped away. After single runs in the seventh and eighth innings, the advantage stood at just 5-4 in the top of the ninth as Werth dug in.

He lunged at the first pitch off the outside corner, fouling it away for strike one. He then got buzzed on a fastball up and in from Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus, to the rave reviews of everyone in the stands wearing a P on their foreheads. Werth then uncharacteristically chased a breaking ball off the plate away, swinging through it for strike two as the crowd again roared its collective approval. Lost in the drama of the moment, Kurt Suzuki took off on the next pitch, ball two, stealing second without a throw. The play would prove enormous, as Werth served De Fratus’ next offering straight past the pitcher, the ball bounding past a helpless Jimmy Rollins into center field, sucking the air out of the ballpark and plating both runners to open up a 7-4 advantage.

“That’s a big-time lineup over there,” said Werth of the Phillies, preferring to focus on the significance of the moment within the game rather than the fanfare surrounding it. “To push a couple across to extend the lead at this point in time in the season, emotions are running high, and I was just happy to get the runs across.”

John Lannan continued to be quietly effective, moving to 4-0 in 2012.

Harper would then drive Werth home on an RBI-triple to provide the final margin, but Jayson’s hit – and the crowd’s reaction to it – provided the highest drama of the evening. They also overshadowed the story that is quietly chugging along, that of John Lannan’s reemergence.

If it weren’t for a throwing error in the third and a bit of bad luck in the fourth, the Nationals lefty may well have carried a shutout into the sixth inning. As it was, he allowed just two runs on five hits in 5.1 innings of work to improve to 4-0 in his five starts since returning to the Washington rotation. And while every game in a pennant race is important, Lannan continues to find himself on some of the biggest stages, tasked with the challenge of leading the Nationals to victory when they need it most.

“I’ve been in that situation here so many times and come up short,” he explained after the game, acknowledging some his own personal struggles pitching in Philly. “I told myself I wouldn’t do that again.”

He described the game as an adrenaline rush from the first inning on, but clearly something about that pressure seems to bring out the best in his game.

“If you don’t want the ball in those situations, you’re in the wrong game.”

This Is Happening

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It’s only appropriate, on this last day of summer, that we can officially begin to discuss postseason baseball in Washington D.C. no longer as a “likelihood” or a “probability,” but as a reality. That’s the thing about the baseball season – a hot start is great, like the one the Nationals stormed out to by winning 10 of their first 14 games, but in the scope of a six-month marathon, it means very little. All the excitement of holding down first place is fantastic fun, but it does not mean anything until this time of year. There are no cheaply won postseason spots in our sport, and only sustained success over the duration of the spring and summer will lead to those meaningful games in October that Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson and everyone around the organization have been talking about since Spring Training.

Yes, the National League East remains undecided, with a combination of eight Nationals wins and/or Braves losses still needed to determine the division crown. Beyond that lie the fight for home field advantage through the various rounds of the playoffs. These Nationals have taken nothing for granted so far this season, and you can be sure they won’t start now. Nevertheless, one indelible fact remains: there will be postseason baseball in our Nation’s Capital for the first time in 79 years.

Michael Morse celebrated as Ryan Zimmerman raced home on a wild pitch.

“What’s the big deal?” an exuberant Johnson jokingly questioned of the press corps, as fans watching his post-game press conference in the adjoining Lexus Presidents Club cheered his arrival.

The Nationals almost clinched their postseason spot Wednesday night in dramatic, surprising fashion, coming from nowhere to overcome a six-run, eighth-inning deficit, only to fall to the Dodgers, 7-6 in the ninth. While that would have been a game for the ages, long remembered by those who stuck it out to the end, it would have supported the script that is often preached, but not necessarily accurate, about this year’s Washington club, that all of this sudden success is a surprise. In actuality, it is the culmination of years of building the right way, from the ground up, and simply watching the pieces come together at the Major League level all at once. In a sense, it was much more fitting that the history was made thanks to a well-pitched, well-defended game, trademarks of a team that Washington fans have fallen in love with this season.

Drew Storen gave the game and the fans their endearing moment to cherish, as he faced the daunting middle of the Dodgers lineup – Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez – holding a three-run lead in the ninth. The cushion would turn out to be more than enough. Storen painted a perfect, outside corner fastball to freeze Kemp, Wednesday night’s hero. He then handcuffed Gonzalez, the powerful lefty’s bat waving helplessly over a disappearing changeup. Finally, he blew away Nationals nemesis Hanley Ramirez – who owned a career .339 (147-for-433) mark with 27 home runs against the Nats coming into the at-bat – on a nasty slider to end it, pounding his mitt once and high-fiving catcher Kurt Suzuki in celebration.

Drew Storen struck out the side in the ninth to nail down the clinch.

“I didn’t even think about it until I saw it on the scoreboard afterwards,” said Storen of the clinching moment. “I was just having fun. The crowd was real into it. If you’re not out there having fun in that situation, you shouldn’t be out there.”

And though Storen provided the coup de gras, seemingly everyone chipped in. Ryan Zimmerman opened the scoring with a booming double to the left-center field gap, scoring Bryce Harper in the third inning. Danny Espinosa had an RBI-double of his own, and came in to score on a Suzuki sacrifice fly, the culmination of a hard-fought, professional at-bat. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth each had a pair of hits, with the shortstop stealing one bag and the outfielder swiping a pair. As it has been all year with this team, you never know who the hero will be, and there were many of them Thursday night.

Ross Detwiler, meanwhile, continued to impress, and continued to show why this team has a real chance to make a deep October run. With six nearly flawless innings, in which a solo home run and a pair of singles were the only bumps in an otherwise smooth road to his career-best 10th victory, he quieted the powerful Dodgers lineup to put the Nationals in position to clinch.

Zimmerman and Werth celebrate the historic night.

“It was great seeing all of them on their feet,” the lanky lefty said of the crowd. “It really gives you the chills a bit to see how into it all of them were.”

Detwiler has consistently gone about his business, and though he is sometimes overshadowed by his teammates, there is no hiding his 6-3 record and 2.76 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break. He also became the fourth Nationals starter to hit double-digits in wins on Thursday, with Edwin Jackson sitting on nine victories heading into his start tonight against Milwaukee.

Speaking of those pesky Brewers, they are suddenly hot, and have clawed their way back into the race for the second National League Wild Card spot. In fact, the final four series on the Nationals schedule – Milwaukee, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Philadelphia again – all bring teams fighting for every game, their postseason lives at stake. Each game will be its own challenge, as the Nats try to wrap up the division. Those battles begin again tonight. But for today, at least, allow yourself to soak in the reality.

This is happening.

What to Watch For: 9/15

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Washington Nationals (89-55) vs. Atlanta Braves (82-63)

RHP Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.85) vs. RHP Tommy Hanson (12-8, 4.35)

The Nationals and Braves meet for the second of a three-game set for a mid-afternoon, 4:05 p.m. start time in Atlanta. Edwin Jackson looks for another strong outing against the Braves, against whom he allowed just one run over seven innings while fanning nine in his only other head-to-head start this season. The Nats offense meanwhile, looks to stay hot against Hanson, off whom they have plated 10 runs (including four homers) in 11 innings over two starts.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Desmond SS

6. Espinosa 2B

7. Flores C

8. Lombardozzi LF

9. Jackson RHP

POWER PLAY

Beginning with an 8-4 win on August 29 at Marlins Park, the Nationals are 12-4 and have hit 24 more home runs than their opposition. In those 16 contests, Washington’s homered 37 times, been taken deep 13 times and outscored Miami, St. Louis, Chicago, New York and Atlanta by 41 runs (97-56).

2ND “HALF” POWER

The Nationals lead the NL and rank third in MLB having hit 82 home runs in the season’s second half. Those 82 post-All- Star break homers are the most hit by the Nationals (2005-pres.) or by any club in D.C.’s 79-year modern baseball history (since 1901), however, they are tied with the 1997 Expos for the franchise mark. The ‘12 Nationals have 18 games to pad their totals.

IN(FIELD) DEEP

Collectively, the Nationals infield (excluding pitcher and catcher) has hit an MLB-best 97 home runs this season. The Yankees (92) and Brewers (81) rank second and third on this list, respectively. Individually, Adam LaRoche (29) and Ian Desmond (23) pace their positions in home runs, while both Ryan Zimmerman (fourth in NL, 22) and Danny Espinosa (sixth, 11) rank among the Senior Circuit’s top half at their positions.

– FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. BRAVES LIVE –

Power Hour

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Did you remember that the Nationals hit three home runs in one inning Wednesday night? With everything else that happened in the game, a dramatic feat became a footnote to the larger overall story. Nevertheless, the “Nat Trick” was an impressive occurrence that signified the team’s offensive breakout, which has seen the bats score 61 runs in their last eight games (7.6 runs per game) after scoring just six times total in a five-game losing stretch before that. Even more impressive than the raw numbers, though, is the fact that everyone is contributing.

Adam LaRoche has homered four times in the first three games of the series.

On Tuesday, Davey Johnson gave Bryce Harper the night off, allowing him to miss a lefty starter and affording Tyler Moore a chance for some at-bats. Moore responded with a towering home run to left, one of the team’s six on the night. On Wednesday, Johnson sat Jayson Werth, a night after his four-hit game. That gave Roger Bernadina a chance to start, and he rewarded his skipper with a home run of his own. Oh, and Harper? He returned to the lineup to swat a pair of longballs, his second two-homer game in a week.

In the past two games – in which the Nationals have only batted a total of 16 innings, due to their cancellation of the bottom of the ninth each night – eight different players have combined to club 12 home runs. Adam LaRoche has led the way with three clouts, while Harper and Desmond have both pitched in a pair and Bernadina, Danny Espinosa, Jesus Flores, Moore and Ryan Zimmerman have one each. Collectively, they are just the third team in the last 95 years to post consecutive six-homer games, joining the ’96 Dodgers and the ’03 Angels.

Not to be outdone, Gio Gonzalez returned to the mound for the first time since his first career shutout last Friday, and was even more dominant. The lefty carried a no-hitter with no walks – the only baserunner to reach early came on an error in the third inning – all the way into the sixth. In the end, he allowed just three hits over seven scoreless frames, fanning nine Cubs without issuing a walk. He stretched his scoreless streak to 16 innings, striking out 17 and allowing just 11 runners to reach base over that span.

While Gio tries to track down 20 wins, Jordan Zimmermann looks for his 10th Thursday night, which would be the first double-digit win total of his career. Saturday, it will be Ross Detwiler’s turn to do the same, and on Sunday, Edwin Jackson will look for his fourth consecutive season of 10 or more wins. Should each accomplish the feat this weekend, or at some other time over the season’s final four weeks, it will give each of the Nats five primary starters a double-digit total for the season.

Gio Gonzalez and the Nats staff are closing in on some milestone numbers.

This is all the more impressive when you consider the fact that last year, on a team that finished a respectable 80-81, John Lannan (who was recently called up for reinforcement down the stretch) was the only pitcher to reach that mark, winning exactly 10 games. For some perspective, not even the 102-win Phillies of 2011 managed to have five starters with 10 or more wins. In fact, the only four teams that turned the trick last year were Milwaukee, Tampa Bay, Texas and St. Louis – all four playoff teams, the final two of which battled it out for the World Series.

Really, that has been the narrative of the 2012 Nationals all season long, that the club’s depth, both on offense and on the pitching staff, is so solid. The storyline was somewhat obscured by the rash of injuries suffered by position players early on. But Cubs manager Dale Sveum commented after Thursday night’s contest that Washington is “by far the best team we’ve played all year.” At this point, the Nats are the best team that they have been all year as well, playing their most dominating baseball of the season down the stretch, when it matters most.

Enjoy the full dirty dozen of homers from the past two nights in the video below before the Nationals look for their fifth straight Curly W and a sweep of the Cubs later tonight.

What to Watch For: 9/4

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Chicago Cubs (51-83) vs. Washington Nationals (82-52)

LHP Chris Rusin (0-1, 1.80) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (8-9, 3.53)

The Nationals rode seven scoreless innings from Ross Detwiler to a 2-1, series-opening victory over the Cubs on Monday, their fourth win in the first five games of this homestand. They will look to Edwin Jackson to keep the momentum in their favor tonight, as he makes his first start since his magnificent, eight-inning, 10-strikeout performance last Thursday.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth CF

2. Desmond SS

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse RF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Espinosa 2B

7. Moore LF

8. Flores C

9. Jackson RHP

ELIAS SAYS…

Adam LaRoche clubbed his 25th home run of the season yesterday, a solo shot off Jeff Samardzija. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, LaRoche is one of four current MLB players who have had 25-homer seasons for four different MLB teams. Also hit 32 for the 2006 Braves, 25 for the ‘08 Pirates and 25 for the ‘10 Diamondbacks. The other players on that list are Adrian Beltre (Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox and Rangers), Alfonso Soriano (Yankees, Rangers, Nationals and Cubs) and Jim Thome (Indians, Phillies, White Sox and Twins).

THIRTYSOMETHING

By closing out Monday’s 2-1 win, Tyler Clippard became the third National to reach the 30-save plateau, joining Chad Cordero (47 in 2005, 37 in ‘07) and Drew Storen (43 in ‘11). Clippard also became just the third pitcher ever to record 30 saves and 10 holds in a single season. Clippard’s 30-save, 10-hold predecessors were Kerry Ligtenberg (30 saves/11 holds for Atlanta in ‘98) and Ugueth Urbina (32 saves/11 holds for Texas and Florida in ‘03)

MIDDLE MEN

Five games into this 11-game homestand, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa are a combined 16-for-38 (.421). Desmond (8-for-20) has hit safely in five of his last six games, all of which were multi-hit efforts. His RBI-single propelled the Nationals to the victory on Sunday afternoon. Espinosa (8-for-18) has hit safely in five straight and has notched six hits in his last nine at-bats.

– FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. CUBS LIVE –

What to Watch For: 8/21

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Atlanta Braves (70-52) vs. Washington Nationals (76-46)

LHP Paul Maholm (11-7, 3.39) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (14-5, 2.91)

The Nationals and Braves took a 4-4 tie into the 13th inning in the series opener on Monday night before Washington was able to finally push across the game-winning run on Chad Tracy’s infield single. Game two of this crucial series pits deadline acquisition southpaw Paul Maholm against All-Star Stephen Strasburg in another marquee pitching matchup.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse LF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Flores C

9. Strasburg RHP

CATCHING UP ON LAST NIGHT/THIS MORNING

Chad Tracy plated Danny Espinosa with a pinch-hit, infield RBI-single to lift the Nationals to a tense, 5-4 victory in 13 innings over Atlanta on Monday at Nationals Park. With the win, the Nationals moved a season-high 30 games above .500 and 6.0 games ahead of second-place Atlanta in the NL East. The 6.0-game lead is the Nationals largest since landing in D.C. in 2005. Washington won its fifth straight extra-inning contest, and has played in a Major League-high 17 games that have gone past the regulation nine innings so far this season.

The game – which ended at 12:28 a.m., or five hours and 23 minutes after its scheduled start time – included 439 pitches/270 strikes, 37 players and 26 runners left on base.

HEY…YOU AGAIN

Stephen Strasburg will face the Braves for the fifth time in 16 starts and the first time since the Nationals squandered a 9-0 lead on July 20th in D.C. Strasburg is 2-1 against Atlanta so far in 2012, with the wins coming in back-to-back assignments on 5/26 in Atlanta and 6/2 at Nationals Park. He last pitched on 8/15 at San Francisco when he allowed two runs on four hits en route to the victory.

NOTABLE

Washington has scored at least five runs in 10 of 13 games against the Braves this season. Beginning with Ryan Zimmerman’s memorable game-ending homer on March 30, 2008 to open Nationals Park, the Nationals are 48-37 (.565) against the Braves. Since MLB returned to D.C. in 2005, Washington has more wins over Atlanta (72) than any other club (Mets, 2nd at 67). The Nationals are 9-2-1 in series play against the Braves in D.C. dating back to April 28, 2008. Meanwhile, Chipper Jones’ 23 homers against the Nationals (2005-present) rank third behind only Ryan Howard (35) and Hanley Ramirez (27).

– FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. BRAVES LIVE –

Finding A Way

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If there is a theme that has defined this season for the Washington Nationals, it may just be that no matter the opponent or the type of game, more likely than not the team seems to be able to find a way to end up on the right side of the final score. Following last night’s wild, 13-inning win over the division rival Braves, the Nats are now tied for second place in the Major Leagues with nine walk-off wins, which have come in nearly every manner one could imagine.

Danny Espinosa’s heads up baserunning helped win the game Monday night.

It all began on Opening Day, as Ryan Zimmerman scored on a wild pitch in extra innings. Since then, there have been clutch, game-winning, extra-inning hits by Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper. Ian Desmond has sent the Nats home happy twice, once on a sacrifice fly, and once with a dramatic home run. Of course, there was the crazy, 4-6 fielder’s choice hit by Adam LaRoche against the Giants on July 5th that allowed Harper to score the winning run. Then, Zimmerman scored again to win on a wild pitch just 12 days later against the Mets. But were any of those endings as improbable as the one that took place Monday night?

Werth nearly (effectively) ended the game in the eighth, as his bid for a two-out, tie-breaking grand slam came up a few feet short in the left field corner. LaRoche just missed his own chance for walk-off glory in the 10th inning, his towering fly ball to right field coming to rest in Jason Heyward’s mitt a step in front of the wall. And Werth again nearly sent the crowd into a frenzy in the 11th, backing up Heyward again, who had to jump at the wall in right to corral the ball. And while a big hit nearly decided things on three separate occasions, in the end, it came down to the littlest of little things, which the Nationals got right and the Braves got wrong.

In a season full of walk-offs, Chad Tracy’s may have been the most bizarre yet.

After Danny Espinosa was unable to advance Desmond – the runner at first following a leadoff single, who was forced out at second on a bunt attempt – he more than atoned for his poor small-ball execution. On a check-swing chopper off the plate by Kurt Suzuki, Espinosa raced to second base, and seeing that third baseman Chipper Jones and shortstop Paul Janish had both converged with catcher Brian McCann not covering, he continued all the way to third. That put runners at the corners with just one out, forcing the Braves to pull the infield in. That setup created an entirely different scenario as Chad Tracy stepped to the plate, the winning run just 90 feet away.

While the focus of what happened next will remain on Dan Uggla, Suzuki’s role in causing the moment of confusion needed for Espinosa to score should not be overlooked. Instead of running full bore towards second base, the Nationals catcher stopped just a couple of steps off the bag and waited. By not moving into Uggla’s line, he was able to take away any chance of a tag-and-throw double play. With the speed of Espinosa, that was really Uggla’s only play. In fact, if you watch the video, he never really squares himself to throw home, indicating that the double play was very much on his mind. But once Suzuki stalled, that became impossible, and the game was already over.

Lost in the madness is the fact that the Nationals became the first team in the Major Leagues to 76 wins, moving them 30 games over .500 for the first time in franchise history. They also expanded their NL East lead to 6.0 games over Atlanta, surpassing the 5.5-game advantage the 2005 Nationals held on July 3 for the largest division lead in franchise history since the team moved to Washington.

You don’t get to 30 games over .500 without finding new and creative ways to win. The Nationals have done just that to get where they are today.

What to Watch For: 8/20

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Atlanta Braves (70-51) vs. Washington Nationals (75-46)

RHP Tim Hudson (12-4, 3.59) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (9-7, 2.38)

The Nationals rode home runs from Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper to another series victory over the Mets on Sunday, staking themselves to a 5.0-game lead in the NL East. Washington begins a crucial three-game set Monday night with the second-place Braves as Jordan Zimmermann puts his Major League-leading 2.38 ERA on the line against Atlanta’s Tim Hudson.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse LF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Zimmermann RHP

LONG TIME, NO SEE

Jordan Zimmermann gets the ball today against Tim Hudson and the Atlanta Braves. This will be J-Zimm’s  first start against the Braves in more than 15 months, with his last one coming on May 12, 2011 at Turner Field. In that outing, Zimmermann received the no-decision despite striking out 11 in 6.1 innings of work.

HAPPY TO HOMER

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the Nationals have won 18 straight games in which they have hit at least one home run. This is the longest such streak in MLB this season, in Nationals (’05-present) history and franchise annals. The last team with a homer-and-win streak to reach 18:  the ’08 Rays, who won 20 straight games in which they homered, July 21-August 22.

D.C.’S DYNAMIC DUO

Thanks to DL stints, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse have started only 67 games together, but in those 67, Washington is 45-22 (.672) and is averaging 5.0 runs per contest (334 runs in 67 games). When Zimmerman and/or Morse are not in Davey’s starting lineup this season, the Nationals are 30-24 (.556) and averaging 3.7 runs per game.

– FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. BRAVES LIVE –

What to Watch For: 8/15

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Washington Nationals (72-45) vs. San Francisco Giants (64-53)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (13-5, 2.90) vs. RHP Tim Lincecum (6-12, 5.35)

The Nationals and Giants are slated for a marquee rubber game on Wednesday afternoon after splitting the first two matchups. Hard-throwing righties Stephen Strasburg and Tim Lincecum go head-to-head as Washington looks to close an impressive road trip on a winning note.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Lombardozzi 2B

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Werth RF

7. Espinosa SS

8. Suzuki C

9. Strasburg RHP

WHEN THE RUBBER HITS THE ROAD

The Nationals are 4-2 in rubber games this year, having won 8-4 on July 1 at Atlanta, 5-2 on June 21 vs. Tampa Bay, 2-1 May 3 vs. Arizona and 4-0 April 11 at New York (NL). However, Washington is 0-2 all-time in rubber games at AT&T Park (L, 1-3 in ‘11, L, 4-5 in ‘10). The Nationals have not lost a road series since the O’s took two-of-three at Oriole Park from June 22-24. Washington is 5-0-2 (win-loss-split) in seven road series since.

STRASBURG MAKES FIRST START AGAINST THE GIANTS

California native Stephen Strasburg will toe the rubber for the first time at AT&T Park later this afternoon. His only other career start against the Giants came on July 9, 2010 when he outpitched Matt Cain, working 6.0 strong innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out eight to earn the win. Strasburg is looking for his third win in a row after claiming victories over Miami on 8/5 and at Arizona on 8/10.

 THE POWER OF THE MIDDLE MEN

The Nationals rank 2nd in MLB with 31 home runs from their middle infielders (Ian Desmond 17, Danny Espinosa 12, Steve Lombardozzi 2). Only the Yankees (34) have more.

– FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. GIANTS LIVE –

What to Watch For: 8/8

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Washington Nationals (67-43) vs. Houston Astros (36-75)

LHP Gio Gonzalez (13-6, 3.34) vs. RHP Armando Galarraga (0-1, 5.23)

The Nationals and Astros played their second consecutive extra-inning game, and for the second time, Washington came away a winner. Michael Morse’s leadoff double in the 12th extended his hit streak to 16 games and led to the winning run, and Roger Bernadina’s highlight-reel catch saved the day in a 3-2 final.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Lombardozzi 2B

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Werth RF

7. Espinosa SS

8. Suzuki C

9. Gonzalez LHP

BERNADINA SHARKS VICTORY FROM JAWS OF DEFEAT

Danny Espinosa homered and provided all three RBI required for Washington to edge Houston, 3-2, on Tuesday in 12 innings at Minute Maid Park. With the potential tying and winning runs on base and two outs in the bottom of the 12th, Bernadina dashed over 125 feet to make a jumping catch at the wall, denying Brett Wallace’s bid for a game-winning double. By improving to 10-6 in extra-inning contests (5-1 since the All-Star break), Washington jumped a season-high 24 games above .500. With 11- and 12-inning victories here at Minute Maid Park the last two nights, the Nationals have won consecutive road games in extra innings for the first time since October 3-4, 2009 at Atlanta (6-4 in 11 innings, 2-1 in 15 innings).

IZTURIS MAKES DEBUT

Last night, Cesar Izturis became the 40th National to appear in a game this year when he pinch ran for Morse after he doubled in the 12th inning. Izturis would come around to score the eventual game-winning run on Espinosa’s RBI-single. Acquired via waiver claim from the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday, Izturis is hitting .235 with 2 HR and 11 RBI so far in 2012.

GIO VS. HOUSTON

Tonight, Gio Gonzalez will take to the hill for the first time at Minute Maid Park. He faced the Astros for the first time of his career in his third start as a National on April 17 in D.C. In Washington’s 1-0 win, Gio worked 7.0 scoreless innings and allowed just two hits. In his last outing, Gonzalez matched a season-high with 10 strikeouts without a walk in 8.0 innings against Miami on August 3.

– FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. ASTROS LIVE –

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