Desperate to generate any semblance of offense against the visiting Angels, the Nationals turned to small ball in an attempt to score runs. Failing that, they settled on more late game heroics to score four ninth inning runs to win 5-4.
Down 4-1 and facing Angels closer Ernesto Frieri (0-2), things looked bleak for the Nats. After a Jose Lobaton home run to start the inning, walks to Denard Span and Anthony Rendon brought Jayson Werth to the plate. Werth promptly added to his growing legend, doubling to tie the score, then scored the game winning run on an Adam LaRoche single.
With the win, the Nationals avoided a sweep that looked fait accompli before the ninth.
Starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez drove in the Nats first run of the game, plating Danny Espinosa in the second. Earlier in the inning Espinosa bunted his way on first, stole second, and subsequently scored. After two straight games with only three hits, and batting an anemic .170 in their previous six games, the Nats resorted to bunts—Rendon bunt singled in the first—and aggressive base running to put runners in scoring position.
Gonzalez pitched 5+ innings, being lifted in the sixth after an Albert Pujols’ RBI double that knotted the score 1-1. The call for Aaron Barrett to relieve was a curious one by manager Matt Williams as Gonzalez had tossed only 83 pitches and had thrown well up until that inning. Erick Aybar singled two batters later, putting the Angels up 2-1. The Halos extended their lead to 4-1 with runs in the seventh and the ninth.
After the game Williams stated that Gonzalez was pulled because it was a cold night and he was feeling some shoulder tightness.
Even though the Nationals recorded eleven hits, only two of them went for extra bases on a windy night that knocked the ball down. Any ball hit into the air seemed to be smothered and fell harmlessly into an outfielder’s glove. LaRoche collected three hits and Espinosa had two, and Espinosa’s stolen base, his second on the year, was only the sixth stolen base for the Nationals this season.
The Nationals are now 3-4 in their last seven, being outscored 30-18. The win brings their record to 12-10 and 7-6 at home.
On Thursday, the San Diego Padres come to Nationals Park to begin a four game series that will conclude the current 11 game home stand. The Nats send Jordan Zimmerman to the mound against Eric Stults.