Jul 7, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams (second from right) takes the ball from pitcher Craig Stammen (35) in the eleventh inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Monday night was an exciting night in the Nation’s capital. For the first time in the 2014 season, the Nationals played their orange rivals from across the beltway. Both teams have had strong seasons thus far. The Orioles entered Monday nights game with a record of 48-40, while the Nats were at 48-39. While the O’s lead the underperforming AL East, the Nationals entered a half game behind the Braves. Last night’s game showed the two teams to be pretty even matched until the 11th inning, when the O’s juggernaut of an offense broke out for six runs to put the game in the books. The game also continues a disturbing trend for the Nationals, but one that may be just an aberration. The Nats are just 2-8 in extra inning games this year.
The two teams both had their aces on the mound Monday night. For the Nationals, Stephen Strasburg took the bump, and with the exception of one inning, pitched brilliantly. The lanky right hander threw seven innings of two run, four-hit ball, striking out nine Birds. His only mistake came in the fourth inning, when AL All Star Nelson Cruz blasted a two run home run out to right center. It was Cruz’s league leading 28th home run of the season, eclipsing his total from his suspension shortened 2013.
However, the Nats would come back against Chris Tillman and the Orioles. A day after hearing that he was in the running as a Final Vote candidate for the NL All Star Team, Anthony Rendon came up in the sixth inning with a runner on and tied the game up with his own gargantuan blast to right center field. That would be all Tillman would allow on the night, and the game would remain scoreless until the eleventh inning.
Craig Stammen has been one of the most consistent relievers in baseball the last three seasons, but the 11th inning on Monday night was one of the worst outings of his career. Nelson Cruz greeted him immediately out of the bullpen with a broken bat single to left, bringing Chris Davis to the plate. Davis led the major leagues with 53 home runs last year, but had struggled this year to a sub .200 batting average and just 13 homers. After a lengthy at bat though, Davis got a fastball up and lifted it into the right center field seats to give the O’s the lead. The very next batter, JJ Hardy, got a hanging slider from Stammen and deposited the baseball in the O’s bullpen for a three run lead. Four batters later, Nick Markakis, a famed Nats killer, delivered an RBI double for a four run lead. Manny Machado followed with his career high fifth hit of the game, a two run homer to put the game in the books. T.J. McFarland shut down the Nats in the bottom of the inning to secure the victory.