The first game of the Nationals long road trip was an extra inning affair which featured shaky pitching from the usually reliable Nats bullpen and the Nats scoring the winning run on a wacky series of errors committed by the Astros.
Edwin Jackson pitched five and one third innings, and threw effectively. He gave up a home run to Marwin Gonzalez in the first inning, which put the Nats behind right from the beginning. The Nationals faced rookie pitcher Dallas Keuchel, making his fourth start this year. He kept the Nats off the board until the fourth inning. Both Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse singled, and Zimmerman scored on an RBI single by Adam LaRoche, tying the game at one each.
In the Nats fifth, Jackson lead off with a single. Danny Espinosa singled and Bryce Harper drew a walk. With the bases loaded, Ryan Zimmerman delivered with a single that scored Jackson and Espinosa. Harper went the third, and Zimmerman attempted to go to second when the Astros threw over to third to try to get Harper, however, Zimmerman was thrown out at second. Morse then singled to score Harper. LaRoche ground into an inning ending double play, but the Nats led 4-1.
Jackson was charged with another run which scored in the sixth as a result of his walk of Jose Altuve, who stole second and moved to third on a groundout by Marwin Gonzalez. Tom Gorzelanny came on in the sixth in relief of Jackson. Brett Wallace got a sacrifice fly to score Altuve. Justin Maxwell tripled, and scored on a single by pinch hitter Steve Pearce. J. D. Martinez made the final out on a pop up by home plate that Suzuki chased over the dugout fence to catch the final out.
Ryan Mattheus threw a scoreless seventh, and Sean Burnett came on for the eighth. Altuve singled, but was erased on a fielder’s choice, leaving Marwin Gonzalez at first. Burnett threw a wild pitch which moved Gonzalez to second. Brett Wallace was out on a fly ball to center, but it was deep enough for Gonzalez to go to third. Davey Johnson elected to have Drew Storen come in to face Justin Maxwell for the right on right matchup, but things did not go as diagramed. Storen walked Maxwell and walked Pearce to load the bases. Storen got behind J. D. Martinez, but got him to hit a fly ball to center for the last out of the inning.
With the score 4-3, the Nats called on their usually reliable closer Tyler Clippard to pitch the bottom of the ninth. Clippard had command problems from the start. He got behind pinch hitter Matt Downs before striking him out. He hit Carlos Corporan on the foot with a pitch. The Astros elected to use Lucas Harrell as a pinch runner. Clippard walked Brian Bogusevic. With two on, Altuve singled to deep left field, scoring Harrell to tie the game. Clippard suddenly found his groove, striking out Gonzalez and Wallace to end the inning, but the damage was done. Jackson’s chance at a win was gone and the Nats were facing extra innings with few bullets left in the bullpen.
The Astros called on Wilton Lopez for the tenth. The hard throwing pitcher made quick work of Zimmerman, Morse and LaRoche. Craig Stammen pitched the tenth for the Nats and made equally quick work of Maxwell, Pearce and Martinez.
Things got interesting in the top of the eleventh. Lopez was still pitching for the Astros. Roger Bernadina, who had replaced Jayson Werth in a double switch, singled to lead off the inning. Kurt Suzuki attempted to bunt Bernadina over. His bunt attempt popped up in the air and dropped in the infield. It was scored a single, but what the scoring doesn’t reflect is that Lopez and Pearce collided both trying to pick up the ball. Pearce then got to the ball after the collision and threw the ball to first trying to get Suzuki. The ball sailed past first base and ricocheted off the right field wall. Bernadina kept running and scored from first. In an attempt to get Bernadina at the plate, Bogusevic threw the ball wide of the catcher. Suzuki cruised into third on the second error. The Nats had a runner on third with no outs and the lead. The Nats could not get Suzuki in, so they took a one run lead into the bottom of the eleventh. Stammen recorded the final outs to get the win. Wilton Lopez took the hard luck loss.
Champ of the Game: For the Nats, this award is shared. Ryan Zimmerman’s two RBI single in the fifth broke a tie and should have been enough to win this one. Craig Stammen gets the nod for effectively pitching the tenth and eleventh innings, giving the Nats the chance to come back and win.
For Houston, Jose Altuve was their champ. He went 2-5, stole a base, scored a run and hit the double that tied the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Chump of the Game: The Astros late inning infield, for looking like a bunch of little leaguers.
Unsung Hero: Roger Bernadina, who got the critical single to start the eleventh inning, scored with his speed on the Astros throwing errors, and caught several balls hit to center when the Nats really needed those outs.