Results tagged ‘ Steve Lombardozzi ’
Miami Marlins (49-58) vs. Washington Nationals (63-43)
LHP Mark Buerhle (9-10, 3.60) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (8-6, 2.28)
The Nationals and Marlins opened a four-game, three-day set by splitting a pair of games in a doubleheader on Friday. Miami’s win in the night cap gave them a 6-5 season edge over Washington, making them the only team in the NL East with a winning record against the first-place Nats, who are 27-17 overall within the division this year.
1. Espinosa SS
2. Harper RF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. Morse LF
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Werth CF
7. Suzuki C
8. Lombardozzi 2B
9. Zimmermann RHP
Washington split a twinbill (W, 7-4/L, 2-5) with the Marlins yesterday at Nationals Park. The Nationals earned a split for the fourth consecutive doubleheader, dating to last season. In 18 innings of baseball – which spanned exactly six hours – the two clubs sent 153 batters to the plate who saw a total of 574 pitches and each club scored nine runs on the day.
Michael Morse has hit safely in a career-high 12 straight games, going 17-for-49 (.347) with three doubles, three homers, nine RBI, two walks and nine runs scored. Morse’s 12-game run is the second-longest current hitting streak in the NL (Miami’s Jose Reyes is riding a 22-game hitting streak). With a hit tonight, Morse would match Steve Lombardozzi, who recorded a 13-gamer from June 29-July 20, for the longest hit streak posted by a National this season.
VIEW FROM THE TOP
The Nationals’ .594 winning percentage ranks second in Major League Baseball (Cincinnati, .613) and currently renders a 2.0-game lead over the Braves in the NL East standings. The Nationals have either led the NL East or shared the top spot for 106 of the season’s 116 days. Only the Rangers (113) have enjoyed more days atop of their division this season.
The Washington Nationals have made a name for themselves in the 2012 season by winning two different types of games. The first and more common type involves a healthy serving of solid starting pitching, a clutch piece of offense or two to snare the lead, and a lockdown performance by an ensemble bullpen. It is the kind of affair that the Nationals have found themselves involved in ever since their 2-1, Opening Day victory at Wrigley Field. But then there is that other kind of game, the nail-biting, nerve-fraying, mind-boggling variety that has made this season truly memorable.
This weekend’s matchups in Milwaukee provided one game from each mold. After splitting the first two of the four-game set with the Brewers, the Nationals sent hometown hero Jordan Zimmermann, originally from nearby Auburndale, Wisconsin, to make his first-ever start against the team he grew up supporting. The emerging ace delivered a sterling performance, allowing a single run on five hits, fanning six Milwaukee batters over six strong innings to extend his streak of throwing at least that many frames to 21 consecutive starts. In so doing, he lowered his ERA to the third-best mark in the National League at 2.28 and matched his career high with his eighth victory. He also improved to 4-0 with a 0.97 ERA in the month of July, during which he allowed just four earned runs and four walks while fanning 31 in 37.0 innings pitched.
Meanwhile, the Nationals rookies came through with huge contributions again, as Corey Brown opened the scoring with a solo shot and Tyler Moore added a two-run bomb to provide more than enough cushion in a 4-1 final. In all, it was a solid, shutdown performance that both the team and the coaching staff could be proud of.
Then, there was Sunday’s game.
In a battle of 2004 first-round picks, it was the less-heralded Mark Rogers who seemed poised to best All-Star Gio Gonzalez, as Milwaukee had forged a 3-1 lead through five fairly normal innings. Right about then, all convention went out the window. The Nationals led off the sixth with back-to-back doubles from Ryan Zimmerman and Moore, cutting the lead to one and putting the tying run in scoring position with nobody out. But they failed to plate that tying run, and Milwaukee responded by scoring twice in the bottom of the frame to push the lead to 5-2.
In the seventh, Washington looked poised to strike again, using singles from Brown and Steve Lombardozzi followed by a walk from Bryce Harper (all rookies!) to load the bases for Zimmerman, again with none out. But Cody Ransom turned a slick 5-3 double-play, limiting the Nats to just a single run once more. And again, the Brewers came right back for two more runs in the bottom of the frame, sitting pretty with a 7-3 advantage though seven frames.
This is, as they say, about the time when things got really interesting. With one out and a runner on first, Roger Bernadina flipped an opposite field home run into the bullpen in left-center field to cut the margin in half. Jesus Flores followed with a single, Brown with a double, and Lombardozzi with an RBI-groundout to cut the margin to one and put the tying run at third with two outs. One wild pitch later, and it was suddenly tied at 7-7. But the Brewers were not about to go quietly. With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Norichika Aoki and Carlos Gomez blasted back-to-back shots, reclaiming a two-run lead.
Ian Desmond (@IanDesmond20) July 29, 2012
For the fourth straight inning, the Nationals were looking uphill at a discouraging scoreline. And for the fourth straight inning, they mustered a rally. Mark DeRosa drew a one-out walk, bringing Michael Morse (featured in this homestand’s Inside Pitch… Pick one up at the ballpark!) to the plate as the potential game-tying run. After Milwaukee reliever John Axford forged ahead in the count, 1-2, his catcher set up low and inside for a fastball, anything to keep Morse from getting his arms extended. Axford missed his spot, leaving his pitch up and over the middle of the plate. Morse did not miss, sending the ball on a line over the right field wall, and once again, the game was tied.
Craig Stammen kept Milwaukee off the board in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, and neither team scored in the 10th inning. In the top of the 11th, Harper walked and Zimmerman singled, bringing Morse to bat with a chance to summon Beast Mode one more time. He delivered once again, pulling a double just inside the third-base bag to score both runners. Tyler Clippard would allow a solo shot to Corey Hart in the bottom of the frame, but shut the door in time to lock down the victory, with Morse himself gloving the final out on a foul pop in front of the Brewers dugout.
The games of this second variety, of the seemingly impossible string of back-and-forth momentum swings, of comebacks from the proverbial dead, seem to keep reaching more and more epic levels of absurdity at every pass. Sunday’s contest lacked only the walk-off hit, as it took place away from Nationals Park, but may have once again set the bar as the most dramatic of them all so far.
Perhaps most importantly, it capped a 6-1 road trip that kept the Nationals a full four games ahead of division rival Atlanta as the weekend came to a close. It also left them at 61-40, the first time the franchise has been this many games over .500 since its relocation to the Nation’s Capital. The Nats get a well-deserved off day on Monday, their only such breather in a 35-day stretch that sees them play 36 games, including seven more in a six-day stretch at home beginning on Tuesday. A word to the wise: take advantage of the day off yourself. You’re going to need every ounce of energy you’ve got left for the final 61 games of the regular season.
In the meantime, enjoy Morse’s theatrics one more time (as even Davey lets himself loose at the 1:04 mark) and both Bob Carpenter’s and Charlie Slowes’ calls of the action.
Sports are full of “firsts” and “lasts,” the types of facts and figures that allow us to place events in appropriate historical context. One of the most noted of these facts in baseball is that the Chicago Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908. What’s often forgotten is that the Cubs have also not won a pennant since 1945, a stretch of 67 years.
In that spirit, let’s go ahead and get the historical facts surrounding where the Washington Nationals stand today out of the way. The club will enter play this 27th of July, 2012 with a 59-39 record, matching the New York Yankees for the best record in the game. This marks the first time the Nationals have stood 20 games above the break-even point since their return to Washington in 2005. It is also the first time a Washington-based Major League Baseball team has been in such a position since the 1945 Senators finished their campaign at 87-67, the same year as that last Cubs pennant.
In fact, at 59 wins the Nationals have already matched their season total from both 2008 and 2009, with 64 games still left to play.
And while all that is notable, games are still won day-to-day, moment-to-moment. It is the little things that continue to have a big impact for the Nationals. Take Thursday night’s game against the Brewers, for example. There was one very loud moment, which you probably remember, and a much quieter one that you may have missed, which turned the game.
The Nationals scored their first run on an Adam LaRoche solo shot, his third home run in as many games, coming on Yovani Gallardo’s first pitch of the second inning. That feat alone was impressive enough, but the fact that it came in lock step with MASN’s highlight package made it even more incredible. F.P. Santangelo had just finished detailing LaRoche’s previous blast as he stepped to the plate, describing the opposing pitcher’s location mistake as a “fastball right down the middle for a home run…” and crack. The ball sailed over the right-center field wall, LaRoche trotted around the bases, and Santangelo continued. “You are looking live, this is not the highlight package that we just showed.”
But it was when Roger Bernadina drew a two-out walk that the Nationals sprung at the opportunity to do some real damage. With the runner at first, the Milwaukee defense played batter Jesus Flores to pull the ball, moving the shortstop into the hole, and pulling the second baseman farther up the middle, assuming coverage of the base on a possible steal. Davey Johnson put on the hit-and-run, drawing the second baseman to the bag and opening up the right side of the infield for Flores, who swatted what would normally be a routine ground ball through the vacated infield dirt, Bernadina racing around to third on the single.
Following the play, Bob Carpenter and Santangelo remarked that Flores had already done his job in the inning. No matter the result, by reaching, Flores had gotten the pitcher to the plate, meaning that at the very least, leadoff man Steve Lombardozzi would lead off the third inning. But Gallardo was flustered by the turn of events, falling behind fellow pitcher Edwin Jackson at the plate 3-0 before walking him to load the bases. Lombardozzi then yanked a clutch, two-out triple inside of first base and down into the right-field corner, and the Brewers never responded.
Meanwhile, LaRoche’s bizarre kinship with his former teammate Jackson – with whom he also played in Arizona – continued, as he hit the seventh of his team-leading 19 home runs in a game that Jackson started. And Jackson continued the trend of superb starting pitching of late. In the last turn of the rotation, Nationals starters have allowed just three runs in 34.0 innings pitched, good for a 0.79 ERA.
For their troubles, the Brewers get lefty Ross Detwiler tonight, who is 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA this month. On Saturday, they will face Jordan Zimmermann, who will make his homecoming start in his native state of Wisconsin and currently sits at an otherworldly 3-0, 0.87 through his first four starts in July.
The Nationals, meanwhile, are looking at uncharted waters, a chance to not only push more than 20 games above .500 for the first time ever, but also to notch their seventh straight Curly W, which would mark the longest winning streak of the season. The Nationals have not won that many consecutive games since taking eight straight from June 10-18 of last year.
All of that talk can wait, though. For now the Nats will focus on getting one more baserunner on offense, one more out on defense, doing what they have done all year long. The best part? You can watch it all again tonight.
Washington Nationals (57-39) vs. New York Mets (47-50)
RHP Stephen Strasburg (10-4, 2.85) vs. RHP Jeremy Hefner (1-3, 5.85)
All-Star Gio Gonzalez rebounded from his toughest start of the year five days prior against the Mets to deliver arguably his best outing in a Nationals uniform, allowing just three hits over 7.0 innings in Washington’s 5-2 win. The Nationals have dominated the Mets, taking eight of the 11 matchups so far this year, and will look to complete the three-game road sweep this afternoon.
1. Lombardozzi 2B
2. Harper RF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Morse LF
6. Espinosa SS
7. Bernadina CF
8. Leon C
9. Strasburg RHP
Danny Espinosa has hit safely in 10 straight games, going 17-for-40 (.425) with four doubles, a triple, a homer, six RBI, two walks and seven runs scored. Espinosa’s 10-gamer is tied for the second-longest hit streak posted by a National this year, trailing only Steve Lombardozzi’s 13-game run, which ended last weekend.
After last night’s win, Washington is now 19-7-6 (win-loss-tie) in series play this season, including an 9-1-3 mark against NL East rivals (2-0-2 against ATL, 1-1-1 against MIA, 4-0 against NYM, 2-0 against PHI). With a win today, the Washington Nationals would secure their fourth road sweep of the season. Note that the Nationals have completed more sweeps on the road than they have at Nationals Park (two).
STRASBURG TAKES ON QUEENS
In just his second career start at Citi Field, Stephen Strasburg looks to get back in the win column against the New York Mets. Earlier this year, Strasburg tossed 6.0 scoreless innings to pocket the win on April 11, in first career start at Citi Field. In his last start, the righty tossed 5.1 innings as the Nationals built a 9-0 lead, but Atlanta eventually rallied to steal the win.
Atlanta Braves (51-41) vs. Washington Nationals (53-38)
Game 1: RHP Ben Sheets (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (5-5, 3.89)
Game 2: RHP Randall Delgado (4-9, 4.52) vs. LHP John Lannan (NR, -.–)
The Nationals stormed out to a 9-0 lead in Friday night’s series opener, only to have the Braves come back for an 11-10 victory in 11 innings. Washington powered out three home runs in the loss, though, including just the second all year off Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth (leading to his second blown save) by Danny Espinosa, and the longest home run in the history of Nats Park, a 465-foot, three-run bomb by Michael Morse in the first inning.
NATIONALS LINEUP, GAME 1:
1. Lombardozzi LF
2. Harper CF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. Morse RF
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Flores C
9. Jackson RHP
LET’S PLAY TWO
According to MLB’s Official Baseball Rules and the Elias Sports Bureau, “A doubleheader is two regularly scheduled or rescheduled games, played in immediate succession,” so today’s day-night or split “doubleheader” is actually not considered a doubleheader. Pragmatists, however, know that the Nationals are 4-3-6 (sweeps-swept-splits) when playing twice in a single day, or 14-12 overall, since landing in D.C. in 2005.
LOMBO SKOFFS AT TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA
Steve Lombardozzi has hit safely in 13 straight games. Note that Lombardozzi executed a sacrifice bunt in his lone plate appearance on July 7 vs. Colorado, but that did not terminate his hitting streak per Rule 10.23(a) in the Official Baseball Rules. His 13-gamer is the longest hit streak posted by a National this season.
EDWIN LOOKS TO FINALLY TOP BRAVES; LANNAN MAKES 2012 DEBUT
Over his six-year major league career, Edwin Jackson has beaten 25 of 30 MLB teams, but never the Braves. In addition to never beating Atlanta, he has yet to top the Nationals, Phillies, Padres and Cardinals. In the nightcap, John Lannan will make his 2012 MLB debut. Since facing Atlanta for the first time on April 12th, 2008, Lannan’s eight career wins against the Braves are tied for the MLB lead with Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels.
New York Mets (46-45) vs. Washington Nationals (53-36)
RHP R.A. Dickey (12-1, 2.66) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (12-4, 2.93)
The Nationals keep their brooms close by as they head into the series finale with the Mets, having taken the first two games of the set. Today’s All-Star pitching battle features Washington’s Gio Gonzalez, looking for his first win in the second half of the season, against New York’s R.A. Dickey, whose knuckleball held the Nats to only one run in a loss that spoiled similar hopes for a home sweep in early June.
1. Lombardozzi 2B
2. Harper RF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Morse LF
6. Espinosa SS
7. Bernadina CF
8. Flores C
9. Gonzalez LHP
NATIONALS SOLID FROM A (ADAM) TO Z (ZIMMERMANN) IN EDGING METS
Jordan Zimmermann worked six scoreless innings to buy enough time for Adam LaRoche to hit a two-run, sixth-inning homer in the Nationals 4-3 win on Wednesday vs. the New York Mets. Washington moved to a season-high, 17 games above .500 with the victory and improved to 13-5 in one-run games at Nationals Park. Steve Lombardozzi’s two-run double in the seventh provided the cushion required.
THE DUKES OF A DOZEN WINS
With 12 wins apiece, Gonzalez and Dickey square off today in D.C., each with an eye on potentially becoming MLB’s first 13-game winner. Gonzalez and Dickey are currently tied for the MLB lead in wins with Tampa Bay Rays lefty David Price and Texas Rangers southpaw Matt Harrison.
With Wednesday’s 4-3 victory, the Nationals clinched another series win. Washington is now 18-7-5 (win-loss-tie) in series play this season, including a 7-1-2 mark against NL East foes.
Unbelievable. That’s a word often thrown around the English language, when really we mean incredible, or spectacular, or amazing. There’s a difference. Unbelievable literally means, as the great Jack Buck so famously put it, that we don’t believe what we just saw. There are incredible, spectacular, amazing games all the time around the game of baseball. What transpired Tuesday night between the Nationals and Mets in eight innings of pure, efficient, low-scoring baseball and two innings of sheer insanity, was hard to grasp.
The Nationals played the type of game we’ve become accustomed to seeing them play all season long – close, low-scoring, and well-pitched. Following seven shutout innings from Ross Detwiler (who has dominated the Mets, allowing just one run over 14 innings against them this season), the bullpen was set up perfectly with a 2-0 lead for Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard.
Burnett twirled a scoreless eighth, and then everything went bananas. Clippard, who had not blown a save since being inserted into the closer’s role in mid-May, gave up singles to the first two batters, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. After a big strikeout by Scott Hairston, Mets Manager Terry Collins made the unthinkable, yet totally logical decision to pinch-hit for struggling, high-priced slugger Jason Bay with a rookie who had only 77 Major League at-bats under his belt. That rookie, Jordany Valdespin, belted a ball deep to right-center field that would video replay would confirm to be a home run, putting the Mets ahead, 3-2, and seemingly dealing the Nationals a crushing blow to open the second half of the season at home.
But the Nats weren’t done yet, not by a long shot. With two runners on in the bottom of the ninth, Washington was down to its last strike, as Danny Espinosa stood in against Mets closer Bobby Parnell. After surviving five straight breaking balls from the righty, Espinosa ripped a 98 mile-per-hour fastball right past Parnell and into center field for a base hit, tying the game at 3-3 and sending the affair to extra innings.
The pendulum of momentum swung again in the top of the 10th as Josh Thole put the Mets ahead once again, driving a two-out, opposite field double to make it a 4-3 game. But that only set the stage for an even more remarkable finish.
The Nationals sent three rookies to the plate to start the inning with the game on the line: Jhonatan Solano, Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper. Solano, pinch-hitting, roped a single over the shortstop to open the frame. Lombardozzi dropped a percet sacrifice bunt, easily moving the runner into scoring position. Then it was Harper’s turn. He wasted no time, lacing a shot to the wall in right-center field to score Solano and tie the game once more, belly flopping into third base with a game-changing triple.
From there, the Mets intentionally walked both Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond to load the bases with one out, setting up the force. Collins was once again rewarded for his decision-making – at least initially – as Adam LaRoche bounced a ball to first base, which Ike Davis turned into a force out at home, leaving the bases loaded with two outs for yet another rookie, Tyler Moore, who had homered earlier in the game. As it turned out, Moore never needed to take his bat off his shoulders in his final at-bat.
Pedro Beato, the reliever summoned specifically to face the right-handed slugger, bounced a 1-2 breaking ball in front of home plate. The ball took a high, soaring carom off the catcher, allowing Zimmerman – who stalled initially – to almost jog home from third with the winning run.
It was the Nationals eighth walk-off win of the year, and arguably the most exciting game of the season. In all the madness, it was almost enough to forget the most unbelievable story of the entire night: Zimmerman scoring from third on a wild pitch in extra innings for a walk-off win in the first game of the second half of the season. Why is that significant? Those who attended the 2012 home opener can certainly tell you, as that game ended the exact same way: with Zimmerman scoring from third on a wild pitch in extra innings for a walk-off win.
Considering the way the first half of the season played out, if you believe in omens, there could not have been a better one to begin the second half at home.
It has been a thrilling first half of the baseball season in the Nation’s Capital, punctuated by tight, low-scoring games and wild finishes. There has been a multitude of different heroes, both household fixtures and under-the-radar names. Nearly every player on the Nationals roster can lay claim to a defining moment of the season. And we’re only halfway home.
With 83 games already in the rear-view mirror, there are still 79 remaining, a reminder that as far as this team has come, there is just as far still to travel. And while we were quite vocal in telling you that the window of opportunity was going to open this year, it is hard to imagine anyone expecting the Nationals to own the best record in the National League at this juncture in mid-July.
Let the numbers wash over you; take a moment to soak them in. A 49-34 record, best in the National League. A four-game advantage over the second-place Braves, the largest division lead in the NL. Seven walk-off wins, best in the National League. A 3.20 team ERA, the lowest in baseball. All of these are impressive feats, especially given the injuries the Nationals have faced this year, but they also only go to show just how much work still remains.
The Nationals have already employed 36 different players on their 25-man roster, and will add at least one more to that list soon, with Drew Storen’s impending 2012 debut. Chad Tracy and Jayson Werth are expected back in the not-too-distant-future as well, bringing plenty of value with them, but also questions about how manager Davey Johnson may, in turn, juggle his roster. Where will those who have filled in so capably – the Tyler Moore’s, Steve Lombardozzi’s and Michael Gonzalez’s of the world – find themselves upon these players returning? The surplus of talent is certainly a good problem to have.
One thing is certain: the road does not get any easier. Washington faces NL East foes in the first 14 games out of the All-Star break, beginning Friday night with four in Miami, a city that has been something of a house of horrors for the Nats over the years. The Nationals are just 24-42 in South Florida since 2005, and have won only three of their last 14 series on the road against the Marlins. They dropped three straight over Memorial Day earlier this year.
Of course, Washington will take on a Miami team missing its primary offensive weapon – Giancarlo Stanton – who Bryce Harper (ironically) replaced in the All-Star Game. With four days to rest up from the bangs and bruises of the first half, now is as good a time as ever to buck that trend and begin the second half on the right foot.
Has everyone had time to breathe? Good, because now the real fun begins.
Will Kubzansky is a sixth grader at The Edmund Burke School in Washington, D.C. He has been attending Nationals games since the team’s first season in the District back in 2005, and his work has been published in Sports Illustrated for Kids. Check out his blog here.
If you look in the Nats dugout every fifth day, you’ll notice something. Gio Gonzalez is smiling. And now I can truthfully say that it’s just like him to do that.
After writing an article for SI Kids about the Nationals and how this was going to be a big year for them, the team invited me to go on the field during batting practice on June 19.
When the field elevator went down, I still couldn’t believe it. Going through the umpire’s tunnel, I was so excited, my heart felt like it was going as fast as a Stephen Strasburg fastball.
Once we made it on to the field, the pitchers were taking batting practice. I think one thing you forget is that these guys are superstars in high school, so they can hit pretty well. Strasburg had at least four home runs, and all of them had power and control.
I called out to Gonzalez, and he told me he just couldn’t hit right now. I laughed, and told him that on the home opener he wasn’t having trouble. He said that he was fine then, but now he could barely slash it.
When Bryce Harper came out, he signed an autograph and said hi. He’s really nice and signed for a lot of people. What I find cool about that is with all the attention he gets, he still finds time for the fans.
I met both F.P. Santangelo and Johnny Holliday, who both advised me not to take their jobs. I told them I wasn’t planning on it.
All the pitchers seemed to be having a good time and laughing. This team was having a good time being in first place – it wasn’t all business – until game time.
Jesus Flores also came over to sign some autographs, and so did Danny Espinosa. Both of them are really nice. As it turns out, my dad works two blocks away from where Espinosa lives, and they had a long chat about the neighborhood.
Mark DeRosa was really nice too, and told me that “These guys will come over if you just yell loud enough,” which made me laugh.
Steve Lombardozzi and Gonzalez promised they would come over, and when they did, I was really happy. These guys didn’t have to sign autographs, but they did, and I was glad they remembered the fans too.
What surprised me was that these guys were friends. It wasn’t like they had been all over the MLB, which some of them had – it looked like they had known each other since the first grade. Gio continued to ham it up once the Rays got on the field, pretending to bat with a glove. The Nats came back laughing and talking with each other.
These guys are normal people, they’re nice, and they enjoy what they’re doing – they’re just a whole lot better at baseball then the rest of us – and at the moment, the rest of the NL too. These guys have some serious Natitude!
*** UPDATE: Watch the video highlights at the end of the article ***
The Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants turned back the clock in more ways than one on Thursday evening at Nationals Park. Donning the 1924-style uniforms of the old Washington Senators and New York Giants, they celebrated old traditions like standing together on the field during the National Anthem, only organ music on the public address system, and a green, metallic looking scoreboard graphic made to replicate the classic manual boards of the sport’s cathedrals, like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.
The game itself turned out to be a throwback as well. Through the first six-and-a-half frames, the Giants rapped out 14 hits, but 11 of them singles and not a home run among them, their lead sitting at just 5-1 despite threatening nearly every inning. That’s when the Nationals finally made them pay for their inability to put the game away. Giants manager Bruce Bochy ran his ace, Matt Cain, back out for a seventh inning of work on a stiflingly hot night at Nationals Park, and the plan backfired. Ian Desmond powered an opposite field homer to right, and Danny Espinosa went back-to-back for the Nats, following with a shot of his own to center. The rally continued with two outs, as Bryce Harper overcame a tough call on a check swing to deliver a double that cut the margin to 5-4.
And with that, the crowd came alive. The buzz in the ballpark was different. Harper himself said after the game that when Desmond homered, Harper turned to Adam LaRoche and declared the Nationals would win the game. Following a scoreless eighth for both clubs and a dominant top of the ninth for Tyler Clippard, the Nats were left in the position of sending three rookies to face San Francisco closer Santiago Casilla needing one run to stay alive and two to win.
Yep, the Nats are going to the playoffs.—
Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 06, 2012
After falling behind 0-2, pinch-hitter Tyler Moore opened the frame with a bullet to the wall in left-center for a double. Steve Lombardozzi followed with a sacrifice bunt that Casilla could not come up with cleanly, and just like that there were runners at the corners with none out for Harper. After working the count to 3-1, the 19 year-old – who earlier in the day had finished behind Cardinals third baseman David Freese in the All-Star Game Final Vote – ripped a single through the hole on the right side, tying the game.
Nationals Park erupted. Three batters later, when Harper crossed home plate with the winning run after the Giants failed to convert the back end of a double play in a futile attempt to force extra innings, it erupted again. Single games are just that – only one contest of many in a season. But there are those, both wins and losses, that stand out above the rest. This was one of those wins, and everyone in attendance knew it.
It was only fitting that the Nationals won on a walk-off, just as the Senators did over the New York Giants in the dramatic 1924 World Series that the night was commemorating. Throughout the contest, there were recaps on the PA and videoboard between innings of each game, as the Senators fell behind three-games-to-two before coming back to win games six, seven, and the series in dramatic fashion.
Just got home from @Nationals Park. People were still fired up the entire Metro ride home. Safe to say that DC is in love with this team.—
Rachele Byrne (@RacheleByrne) July 06, 2012