Aug 17, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals left fielderScott Hairston
(7) is mobbed by teammates after hitting a walk off sacrifice flay against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the eleventh inning at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 6-5. Mandatory Credit:Brad Mills
-USA TODAY Sports
After coming back from a three-run deficit to beat the Pirates in walk-off fashion Saturday night, the Nationals once again had a flair for the dramatic in Game 3 of the series tonight at Nationals Park, where the team celebrated yet another walk-off victory against the Bucs.
Unlike last night, however, the team’s heroics came in the bottom of the 11th inning. Jayson Werth, who, according to MASN’s Dan Kolko, hadn’t swung a bat in a week prior to tonight’s game, got the inning started with an extremely hard-hit double to left field that put the winning run on second base with nobody out. Werth then advanced to third base on a groundout to the right side by Denard Span, and scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Scott Hairston.
“We, as hitters, just had good at-bats leading up to the win,” Hairston told the Washington Post. “That’s what good teams do, and hopefully it will create more momentum moving forward.”
Although the game ended with a sacrifice fly from Hairston, merely watching highlights from the 11th inning wouldn’t do this game justice. Sunday’s game was one of the craziest games you’ll ever see. From ugly fielding, to blown saves, to multiple comebacks and a 5:05 p.m. start time, it was a strange game, to say the least.
And while Werth and Hairston sealed the deal for the Nationals in extra innings, it all got started nearly four hours earlier — when Doug Fister took the mound for his 18th start of the season.
Fister, who came into the ballgame in search of his 13th win of the season, once again showed that he is the true ace of the Nationals’ rotation. The right-hander dominated, allowing just five hits and two unearned runs while striking out five over seven innings of work.
As has been the case throughout the course of the season, Fister was efficient and played deep into the game, throwing 69 of his 97 pitches for strikes. Fister has been dominant all season, and Sunday was no exception. In his last 10 starts, the right-hander has gone seven innings or more eight times and boasts a 7-1 record and 1.57 ERA in that span.
Despite Fister’s excellence on the mound, however, things didn’t look good for the Nationals early on. Much like last night, the offense once again failed to break through early in the game against Pirates starter Edinson Volquez. And although Fister was dealing on the mound, his defense nearly handed him his fourth loss of the season with some sloppy play in the top of the sixth.
With runners at the corners and no outs, it seemed like the Nationals had stalled Pittsburg’s rally when Neil Walker hit a ground ball right back to Fister and Gregory Polanco was caught in between third and home. But after Fister threw the ball to Anthony Rendon, the Nationals’ third baseman made a bad throw to Wilson Ramos and Polanco scored, making it a 1-0 game. The Pirates added another run later in the inning on an infield single by Russell Martin.
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Fortunately for the Nationals, the Pirates returned the favor an inning later. After Washington had already cut Pittsburg’s lead in half in the sixth, the Nationals mounted another rally in the seventh.
With the bases loaded and one out, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a chopper to Pirates’ first baseman Ike Davis. After Davis fielded the ball, he threw it home for the force out, but his throw went over Martin’s head and rolled down the third base line, allowing Michael Taylor and Kevin Frandsen to score and giving the Nationals a 3-2 lead. Washington made it a 4-2 game later in the inning when the Pirates once again failed to cut down the runner at home on a ground ball from Rendon.
For a while it seemed like the Nationals would comfortably walk away with a 4-2 win and a sweep of the Pirates. Unfortunately, closer Rafael Soriano had yet to enter the game. Soriano, looking for his 30th save of the season, came in to protect a two-run lead — and blew it in vintage Soriano style.
Soriano started the inning by hitting Starling Marte with a pitch. Marte then advanced to third on single by Travis Snider, and scored on a wild pitch. Soriano then proceeded to walk Ike Davis, putting the lead run on base for the Pirates. Two batters later, the Pirates took a 5-4 lead on a two-run double from Polanco. Soriano earned the blown save and was taken out after retiring just one batter.
But, as we saw earlier in the game, the Nationals weren’t going down quietly. After Taylor struck out to start the bottom of the ninth, Werth drew a key, pinch-hit walk that put the tying run on base. Werth then advanced to third on a single by Span, and scored the tying run on a single by Cabrera, sending the game to extra innings.
Ross Detwiler put zeros on the board in each of the next two innings, before Werth and Hairston’s heroics gave the Nationals the 6-5 win and the sweep in the bottom of the 11th.
It was a crazy win, it was an ugly win, but it was a win nonetheless. The Nationals extended their win streak to six games, making it the longest active win streak in baseball and the longest win streak the Nationals have had all season.
With Sunday night’s dramatic win, the Nationals are now 69-53 and maintained their six-game lead over the Braves in the NL East.
It was a fitting end to a thrilling and stressful series for the Nationals and it was, without a doubt, one of the craziest games of the year. Now, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the win. Because if tomorrow’s game is anything like these last few games have been, it’s safe to say we won’t be doing much relaxing.