Ding dong, the streak is dead! It certainly didn’t die easily though. It looked good after a four-run first inning, thanks to three Pittsburgh errors, but the Pirates offense knocked in a few runs of their own against Gio Gonzalez. It was a too-close-for-comfort 4-3 in the bottom of the eight, but the Nats added some insurance runs and it was a good thing they did. Entering in a non-save situation up 7-3, Rafael Soriano was not nearly himself, walking the first two batters he faced and letting up two hits to make the score 7-5 with one out when he was pulled. Ian Krol walked another guy to load the bases, but got another out to come tantalizingly close to his first career save. But, hauntingly similarly to Game 5 last year, a single drove in two runs to tie the game at 7-7. Unlike Game 5, however, Krol ended the inning and preserved the tie. In the bottom of the ninth, Bryce Harper bailed the Nats out with a walk-off homer to avoid going 0-7 coming out of the All-Star break. The pitching may have struggled, especially late, but the offense finally stepped up and took advantage of some Pittsburgh mistakes. They also rectified one of their biggest failings: after being 6-81 with RISP previously, the team was 5-14 today. They gained a game on Atlanta today, but they have a loooooong way to go, especially with how they’ve been playing.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Bryce Harper’s walkoff home run (+44.0%)
How could it be anything else. After the collapse in the top of the ninth, the Nats were completely deflated. The prospect of scoring runs seemed very unlikely with just a runner on first and two outs, but heading to extras was a distasteful idea given that the Nats have a doubleheader tomorrow. Harper shook everyone out of their funk very quickly with his deep drive to left center, which, much like Pedro Alvarez‘s bomb yesterday, stayed low and just kept going until it was gone.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Josh Harrison‘s game-tying single (-38.2%)
This was perhaps the lowest moment of the entire post-ASG schneid. Soriano allowed two runs to cut the lead to two, and saddled Krol with two runners when he was pulled. Krol nearly got out of it, with two strikes and two outs and the bases loaded, but Harrison’s single tied the game. Even then the horror was not over: The Pirates had runners on second and third, and taking the lead could mean turning the game over to ace reliever Mark Melancon. Fortunately, Krol struck out Garrett Jones to end the inning.
Champ of the Game: Harper (+52.5%) had an excellent game in returning from resting his knee. He was 3-5 with a hit-by-pitch, two RBI, and three runs scored. His home run was his first in 24 days, since the one he hit in his first at-bat back from the DL. Harrison (+52.2%) was also 3-5. He had four RBI, including two from a two-run homer in the sixth inning.
Chump of the Game: Krol (-20.5%) had a very curious line: 0.2 IP, 1 BB, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, BS, W. As always, there is a dichotomy between normal stats and WPA: Soriano is responsible for the game-tying runs because he put the runners on, but here Krol is blamed because he let them in. For the Pirates, Bryan Morris (-37.2%) allowed two runs on two hits in 0.2 IP: Harper’s game-winning home run.