On Friday night in San Diego, Chad Tracy‘s 10th inning pinch hit homerun gave the Nationals a dramatic win and secured at least a tie in the series. Tracy’s homerun, a linedrive to right off of San Diego closer Huston Street, came an inning after Rafael Soriano blew a two run lead in the ninth inning. Despite a no decision, Gio Gonzalez pitched well, allowing just two earned runs in six and a third innings.
San Diego struck for two runs in the first inning off of Gio. Everth Cabrera walked with one out, and after Chase Headley popped out, Jesus Guzman also walked. Kyle Blanks then followed with a base hit to right field that scored Cabrera initially. Bryce Harper tried to throw out Guzman at third base, but his throw short-hopped Ryan Zimmerman and went into the stands, allowing Guzman to score as well. The first inning has quickly become Gio’s bane, as he has now given up eight earned runs in nine first innings. Gio has given up a combined 15 runs in every other inning he has pitched after the opening frame. If Gio hadn’t pitched in any first inning this year, he would have a 3.21 ERA (15 ER/ 42.1 IP).
The Nationals offense quickly responded against San Diego right hander Burch Smith in the fourth inning. After back to back singles by Harper and Zimmerman started the inning, Adam Laroche extended his hitting streak to 14 games by launching a Smith fastball into the right center field bleachers. The offense wasn’t done however. In the sixth inning, Ryan Zimmerman walloped a ball just over the right field wall for his second home run of the year, and LaRoche followed by once again pounding Smith’s offering out of the ballpark. After a slow start to the season, LaRoche is heating up at just the right time. He has four home runs in his last 4 games and has been carrying the offense.
The Padres refused to go down easily in the ninth inning. After a Jedd Gyorko off of Gonzalez had trimmed the deficit to two in the sixth inning, the Nationals appeared to have control until Soriano(1-0) came into the ballgame in the ninth to try and end the game. Chris Denorfia reached on a Zimmerman throwing error with one out and scored on a Chase Headley single with two outs. Pinch hitter Yonder Alonso followed with a base hit to right field and then Blanks tied the game with a soft line drive to the outfield grass. It was Soriano’s second blown save of the year.
In the tenth inning, San Diego closer Huston Street(0-3) got the first two outs before Chad Tracy pinch hit and demolished a changeup for a go-ahead home run. Drew Storen escaped a two on, one out situation in the bottom of the inning to lock down the game and record his first save of the year. The Nationals dodged a huge bullet when Storen was unharmed after getting hit on the pitching hand by a comebacker.
The Nationals will go for the series victory in San Diego Saturday night behind the right arm of Jordan Zimmerman(7-1, 1.69). Zimmerman looks to keep right with Matt Harvey and Shelby Miller as the best pitchers in the NL this year and pick up his fith straight win and his would be major league leading eight win overall. The Padres will counter with crafty left hander Eric Stults(3-3, 4.57), First pitch is at 8:40 ET.