After the series opener between the Nationals and Orioles turned out to be a real pitcher’s duel, Saturday night’s game was anything but. The starters for both teams struggled, and there was far from a dearth in the home run ball as the Nationals battled back to even up the series at a game apiece with a 7-4 victory.
By the end of the second inning, the teams had already matched their combined run total for the prior game as they traded runs early. After Yunel Escobar was thrown out at the plate to end the top of the first, the Orioles got on the board first. Jordan Zimmermann, pitching without his best stuff, started the game off by surrendering a single to Manny Machado and a double to Chris Parmelee before an RBI groundout brought Machado in.
In the second, Washington loaded the bases with no outs. Ian Desmond, however, sabotaged the shot at a big inning by grounding into a double play to bring in a run. Matt den Dekker walked and came around to score on Michael Taylor‘s RBI single to give the Nationals a short-lived 2-1 lead.
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Baltimore responded with a two-run bottom of the second. J.J. Hardy singled with one out, and, following a strikeout by Ryan Flaherty, Caleb Joseph hit a ball that just cleared the center field fence and the outstretched glove of Michael Taylor. It was a 3-2 Orioles lead that would stretch to 4-2 on a leadoff home run by Steve Pearce in the fourth.
Given the struggles of the Nationals offense during their recent skid, it was reasonable to worry if they could manage to climb out of the hole. After Taylor’s RBI single in the second, O’s starter Miguel Gonzalez retired 10 straight batters through the end of the fifth inning.
Bryce Harper put an end to that streak in emphatic fashion. A Gonzalez pitch got far too much of the plate, and Harper deposited the ball into the right field stands on a line drive to begin the sixth. The next two hitters, Clint Robinson and Wilson Ramos, reached on singles before Danny Espinosa did his best Harper impression and took a pitch out for a three-run home run. The two-run deficit was now a two-run lead.
Things remained quiet from there. Jordan Zimmermann, who was constantly having to work out of jams, managed to get through the sixth without allowing any further damage. Blake Treinen entered in relief, and promptly worked himself into a corner. But after starting off with two consecutive walks, he managed to record two outs, and Felipe Rivero closed out the frame. The much maligned Casey Janssen worked a scoreless eighth that included two strikeouts to get the ball into the hands of Drew Storen with a lead.
After the Nats added an insurance run with Michael Taylor, who hit well out of the leadoff spot, driving in Ian Desmond, Storen came on for the ninth. Baltimore threatened by putting two men on with one out, but the Nats closer settled in and recorded the last two outs quietly to earn his 26th save.
The win moves Washington to 47-39 on the season and keeps their slim lead in the NL East at two games. Tomorrow, the Nationals will look to take the series as they send out ace Max Scherzer (9-7, 2.12 ERA) to face Wei-Yin Chen (4-4, 2.82 ERA) in their last game prior to the All-Star break.
- Danny Espinosa‘s three-run shot in the sixth, which turned out to be the game-winner, was his tenth of the year. He now leads all NL second basemen in home runs. Espinosa is having a huge year at the plate and continues to be a huge boost to this lineup that is missing so many starters.
- Saturday’s game featured some fantastic fielding from both squads. Manny Machado took away a hit from Yunel Escobar with a diving stop. For the Nats, Espinosa provided the web gem on a ground ball up the middle that he turned into a fantastic double play.