Vampires. Cockroaches. The Washington Nationals.
Things that just won’t die.
Facing a rocky outing by starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez that left them in a hole, a collectively shaky night from the bullpen and deficits large and small throughout, the Nationals battled through to finally put away the Milwaukee Brewers in 11 innings at Miller Park, 11-10. The win clinched a series victory for Washington in the four-game set and more importantly, maintained the Nats four-game advantage over the surging Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
Michael Morse was the hero at the plate for Washington in the late innings, twice coming up with game-changing hits. Trailing 9-7 in the top of the ninth against deposed Milwaukee closer John Axford, Morse followed up Mark DeRosa‘s key walk by lining a home run just over the wall in the right field corner to tie the game.
Two innings later, Morse came up with runners on first and third and laced a two-run double down the third base line off Jose Veras (3-4), scoring Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman and giving the Nationals an 11-9 lead they would not relinquish.
The game through the early innings was a classic case of not being able to keep momentum on your side. For every inning the Nationals scored through the eighth, the Brewers got that run back immediately, and usually then some. Steve Lombardozzi‘s leadoff home run in the first was cancelled out by a bases-loaded walk and an infield single off Gonzalez, who walked five and gave up five hits and five runs in six innings.
Tyler Moore‘s sixth-inning RBI double was answered by a bizarre squeeze bunt by Nori Aoki that resulted in three separate arguments on the field as the play came to an end. And most egregiously, after a four-run eighth-inning rally by Washington that tied the game at 7-7, Ryan Mattheus served up back-to-back homers to Aoki and Carlos Gomez that re-established Milwaukee’s lead. Unfortunately for the Brewers, the bullpen — their Achilles heel all season — was their downfall once again.
Craig Stammen (4-1) got the win by finally making a momentum swing stick, throwing 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.
Champ of the Game: Michael Morse. The Beast had the two biggest hits of the game, one to tie and one to put Washington ahead. He even made a cameo at first base in the late innings after Adam LaRoche left with back spasms and Tyler Moore was double-switched out. For Milwaukee, Corey Hart had three other hits in addition to his late homer and also scored three times.
Chump of the Game: Danny Espinosa. Espi struggled for most of the game to make contact, finishing with four strikeouts on the day. He did hit a sharp single in the 11th inning, making his day less than a complete disaster. On the Brewers side, any of their bullpen arms would serve, but Francisco Rodriguez gets the nod as his meltdown set the table for Washington’s biggest rally, the four-run uprising in the eighth that tied the game.
Next Game: The first-place Nationals return home on Tuesday night to face the reeling Philadelphia Phillies at 7:05 ET — a sentence that in the past would fit well in Bizarro-land. Cliff Lee (1-6, 3.95 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Phillies against Stephen Strasburg (11-4, 2.76).