Today’s game and yesterday’s were 99% similar. A close, low-scoring game went to extras. But the Nats won this one, so turn the narrative around!
Bryce Harper hit his 12th home run of the season, but Drew Storen allowed an inherited runner from Gio Gonzalez‘s otherwise excellent outing to score, and the Nationals (24-23) had to score on an Ian Desmond single in the tenth to salvage the series finale over the Giants, 2-1.
Through five innings, this game was completely scoreless. Gonzalez and Madison Bumgarner were matching each other pitch for pitch, each having allowed three hits and one walk through five scoreless innings. Leading off the sixth, Harper decided to change that. He launched Bumgarner’s pitch into the left field bleachers to put the Nats on top, 1-0. As noted by ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, Harper is in good company with his homer numbers at his age. Through 47 games, he trails only Orlando Cepeda, Frank Robinson, and Mel Ott in home runs among 20-year-olds through their team’s first 50 games. Each of them had 13, a mark Harper has three games to reach, and they are all in the Hall of Fame.
The Giants struck back in the eighth. Gonzalez was pulled after recording one out and walking a batter. Drew Storen came in, promptly walked another batter, and allowed a game-tying single by Buster Posey. However, he was able to get the next two outs to preserve the tie. A side note on Storen: he has struggled in late innings this year despite being a dominant reliever in the past. Will he ever get back to where he was?
The run allowed by Storen was a baserunner for which Gonzalez was responsible, giving him an earned run and a nearly identical line to Bumgarner’s final. Both pitchers allowed one run on four hits and two walks while striking out five, and the only difference between them was that Gonzalez pitched 7.1 innings, while Bumgarner pitched only 7. Neither team allowed a run in the ninth as Tyler Clippard (W, 3-1) and Sergio Romo pitched clean frames, but the Nationals broke the tie in the tenth.
After Denard Span grounded out against Jeremy Affeldt, Harper doubled and the Giants intentionally walked Ryan Zimmerman to get to Desmond, who had been 0-4 in the rest of the game. Desmond delivered a single that scored Harper, the game’s eventual winning run. Rafael Soriano redeemed himself for his two blown saves by throwing a perfect inning to lock down his 13th save of the year.
The Nationals ended their grueling West Coast road trip at a disappointing 4-6, but will finally get home to take on the Phillies starting on Friday. Unfortunately, the team’s offensive issues persist. They had just a few more hits than yesterday, and didn’t score more runs, but hey, Danny Espinosa got a hit. Can’t we all just forget about our troubles for a day?
Next Game: Friday v. Philadelpha, 7:05 PM. Zimmermann (7-2, 1.62) v. Kendrick (4-2, 2.82)