Through six, today’s game had all the makings of a pitcher’s duel between two great aces: Stephen Strasburg and Cole Hamels. Neither had blinked, each allowing just three hits in a scoreless game. But in the bottom of the seventh, the Nats came alive in a big way. Four hits, two walks, and two errors gave the Nationals a five-run inning and the first frame in which they’ve batted around since last September. At the beginning of the sixth, the Nationals’ win probability was 50%. At the end, it was 98.6%. The offense looked like the typical Nats through six innings with just three hits, but seven total in the seventh and eighth put the team’s total at ten. Five runs would end up being far more than Stephen Strasburg needed, as he allowed just one run in eight excellent innings and even that came on a questionable balk call. Winning a home series against Philadelphia is always a good feeling, if only to watch all of their traveling fans get back on the Amtrak disappointed.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Jhonatan Solano‘s fielder’s choice (+19.0%)
Ok, so it’s not technically a hit. That doesn’t make it any less pivotal. With the bases loaded and one out, “The Onion” Solano hit a grounder to third. Michael Young threw to home in an attempt to get Ryan Zimmerman, but his throw got past Humbero Quintero and Adam LaRoche scored as well, putting the Nats up 2-0. Two more doubles would score three more runs, and the Nats pegged five runs (three earned) on Cole Hamels in 6.1 IP, despite his stellar start.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Michael Young’s ground into double play (+7.6%)
For the second time in this series, the Phillies’ most important plate appearance was a double play ball. They had a runner on first with one out when Young’s groundout got them both out and ended the chance. In an ordinary game it wouldn’t matter too much, but the Phillies had nearly no offensive opportunities, and their best came when the Nationals were already up five.
Champ of the Game: Strasburg (+52.2%) was, as F.P. Santangelo described it, “the best player on your Little League team,” meaning that he was dominant on both sides of the ball. He pitched eight innings for the second time in his career and the second time in three starts, allowing one run on five hits and no walks while striking out nine. With the bat, he was 2-3 with a double and a single. Philly’s Ben Revere (+1.4%) was the only Philly with a positive WPA, going 2-3 with a run scored.
Chump of the Game: Denard Span (-9.4%) was 1-4 with an RBI, but made outs twice with runners on base earlier in the game. Michael Young (-12.4%) had a terrible day. He was 0-4 with two Ks on offense, and committed the error that let the Nationals take the lead. But hey, veteran leadership, right?