Oh, Minute Maid Park…those long, painful, and anxiety-filled games you bring us Nats fans. That is, until Roger Bernadina and Michael Morse come along. After managing to take home a victory Monday in the form of an RBI triple bunt by newly acquired catcher Kurt Suzuki, the Washington Nationals (67-43) pulled out another close one in extras against the lowly Houston Astros (36-75) Tuesday night, 3-2. Both starters pitched stellar games yet neither would earn a decision (out of pure luck, Drew Storen earned the win). No big deal, but the man we know as the “Shark” may have made the most tremendous catch of his life to close out the contest and save Tyler Clippard‘s butt from another blown save.
For the Nats, Ross Detwiler was terrific. After giving up a walk to Jose Altuve and two-run bomb to Ben Francisco in the 1st that gave the ‘Stros a 2-0 lead, the #5 starter would settle in and certainly take care of business against this last-place squad. He’d pitch seven strong, giving up only three total hits, the two early runs, and just two walks on 85 pitches. Though Davey would use basically all of his relievers to close out the game, the Astros managed just two hits following Detwiler’s departure.
Like “The National Det,” Astros starter Jordan Lyles would pitch extremely well in this one. Minus an early walk and two-run homer to Danny Espinosa in the 2nd (story sound familiar?), Lyles would hold the Nats to just three hits and two runs in seven innings.
Once the starters left is where this game slowed down dramatically. Astros’ relievers had it easy as they would strike out a combined seven hitters in innings 8-12, yet the Nats’ bullpen was forced to work through jams caused by seemingly endless walks (yes, I know it was just four of them but it felt like double that). It was Michael Morse in the top of the 12th, however, who finally sparked some energy in the barely awake Nats fans back in DC. To open the inning, the Beast extended his hitting streak to 16 games on an absolute bomb 436 feet up Tal’s Hill in center that unfortunately only resulted in a double. Roger Bernadina would lay down a sac bunt to move courtesy runner and newly acquired Cesar Izturis to third, and Espinosa would add to his nearly perfect night with a third RBI on a single up the middle.
Though Clippard struggled yet again to finish his designated one inning of work, the Nats would finally close out the game as the clock struck midnight eastern when Bernadina made an OUTSTANDING catch in deep center. The Nats extend their division lead to 4.0 games over the ever-lurking Atlanta Braves, and Gio Gonzalez will take the hill Wednesday to try to seal another series win.
Champ of the Game: Gotta be a tie between Espinosa and Bernadina. Espi finished the night 2-5 with a run scored and three RBIs that were all desperately needed for the Nats to grab a late victory. While Bernadina might’ve just been 0-2 with a run and two walks at the plate, his sac bunt ended up being crucial in the 12, and again, his catch to end the game was absolutely incredible.
For the Astros, Ben Francisco, who went 1-4 with the homer, two RBIs and a walk.
Chump of the Game: The Nationals’ 1-4 hitters went 0-19 with 8 K’s tonight…enough said.