Good teams win the games they should, while great teams win the games they shouldn’t. Tonight, the Washington Nationals showed a glimpse of greatness in their comeback 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Nationals entered the 8th inning down three runs, and having had only two runners reach second base all night. But like they did in their 2012 season, the Nats refused to go down easily.
Pinch hitter Michael Taylor led off the inning with a walk, followed by a Denard Span single. Kevin Frandsen then got his third hit of the night with a rare start batting second in the lineup, driving home Taylor.
After an Anthony Rendon double-play ball, Adam LaRoche stepped up to the plate with two outs and Span on third. He would not disappoint. He destroyed a 1-0 sinker from Tony Watson, sailing the ball into the bullpen to tie the game at three.
After a one-two-three top of the 9th from Matt Thornton, the Nationals came up in the bottom of the ninth with the chance to win.
Bryce Harper led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch to Wilson Ramos. With the outfield playing shallow, Ramos ripped a ball just over the head of Gregory Polanco in right. The ball then took a perfect bounce off the warning track, into the Nationals bullpen for a ground rule double, and a walk-off win.
The Buffalo was mobbed as Nationals Park erupted. The Nationals had been outmatched for most of the game, but with resilience, stole the game from the Buccos.
Gio Gonzalez, like he has been most of season, was average on the bump.
He started off the night well, retiring the first two batters he faced, but then surrendered two straight singles before finally getting the third out of the inning. This was representative of how he would fare the rest of the night.
Each inning seemed a struggle. He allowed three runs in the third inning and seven hits over the course of his five innings pitched. He was able strike out seven but once again hurt himself with his pitch count, which probably cost him another inning or two of work for the night.
Luckily for the Nationals, Craig Stammen was masterful in his three innings of work, facing the minimum with the help of two double plays. The importance of Stammen in this game cannot be overstated. He kept the Nationals in it and gave them the opportunity to win.
On the mound for the Pirates, Jeff Locke gave up just four hits in his five and two-thirds innings. The Nationals never seemed to figure him out and were glad to see him leave so early in the game.
With the Braves holding on to beat the struggling-of-late Oakland A’s 4-3, the Nationals were able to maintain their six-game lead in the NL East.
The win was their fifth straight and they will now have a chance for a second consecutive series sweep on Sunday night.
Edinson Volquez will face off against Doug Fister, who hasn’t allowed more than two runs in a start since July 2nd. The Nationals hope to have Jayson Werth back in the lineup, who hasn’t played since last Sunday, August 10th. with a shoulder injury.