Let’s face it. There wasn’t much to get excited about over the last two games. But, after the Nationals best-pitched game of the series, Jayson Werth hit a 3-2 pitch from Lance Lynn over the left field fence into the Cardinals bullpen saving Washington’s season for at least one more game – a winner take all fifth game tomorrow night.
The Nationals have had trouble hitting with runners in scoring position since Tyler Moore’s base hit in the series opener. Today against Kyle Lohse, Mitchell Boggs and Lynn, they didn’t have one runner in scoring position. Both runs were scored on home runs. Werth’s walk off and Adam LaRoche’s lead off homerun in the bottom of the second inning.
What turns out to be the secondary story in this one is the Nationals pitching in the must-win game. Ross Detwiler pitched what may very well have been the best game of his career going six innings allowing only three hits, one unearned run after an error by Ian Desmond and a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran in the top of the third and struck out two with three walks. Detwiler did get in and out of the biggest jam in the 6th when he allowed a single and an intentional walk sandwiching an errant throw by Ryan Zimmerman on what should have been an inning-ending double play. Needless to say, there will be no screams for Stephen Strasburg on this night. Funny what a win could do…
The bullpen was even better. Jordan Zimmermann, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen pitched an inning each, striking out eight of the nine outs allowing just two walks (one by Clippard, one by Storen) between them. That set the stage for the most dramatic homerun in franchise history. Or, the most dramatic offensive homerun in franchise history anyways.
There are still concerns about the offense. Everybody not named Werth, LaRoche or Zimmerman had a zero in the hit column and only Kurt Suzuki managed a walk (LaRoche had one as well). That is a negative most Nationals fans will choose to forget about. At least for the next 24 hours.
Champ of the Game: This has to be Werth. Cases can be made for Detwiler, the bullpen and LaRoche but Werth getting the walk off homerun makes this a decision no one will argue with.
Chump of the Game: It’s always hard to name a chump after a win, but I will have to go with the rest of the lineup that went hitless. Ian Desmond had his worst game of the series, not only at the plate but an error that led to the Cardinals only run.
Unsung Hero: I’m going to go off the board for this one and say Jordan Zimmermann. Yes, Adam LaRoche had a big game. Coming off of a horrible start in a tied game out of the bullpen for the first time in his Major League career, all Zimmermann did was strike out the side.
Next Game: For the third time in three playoff series in franchise history, the Nationals will go to a fifth and deciding game. Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 3.60), the ace of the Nationals staff is the guy Washington would have wanted to start a game of this magnitude. He will go up against Adam Wainwright (0-0, 1.59) who has also pitched in deciding games before. Both pitchers had no decisions in Game 1. First pitch is set for a little after 8:30 in the first night game of the series.