After trimming their deficit in the NL East to 5.5 games on Saturday night, the Washington Nationals took the field behind Stephen Strasburg on Sunday afternoon looking to further close the gap. While they weren’t able to get within 4.5 games due to the Mets winning this afternoon, they were at least able to put together a strong offensive outing and keep pace with their division rivals with a 7-4 victory.
The win was even more impressive given how poorly it started. In the first inning, Dee Gordon reached on a bunt single, and a double to right field by Ichiro put runners on second and third before Justin Bour crushed a 2-2 fastball from Strasburg to center field, giving the Marlins a 3-0 lead.
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Washington finally got on the board in the third inning. Michael Taylor singled. Following a sacrifice bunt by Strasburg, Jayson Werth hit his tenth homer of the season to get the Nationals to within one run.
After the Marlins stretched their lead to 4-2 on a solo homer by Derek Dietrich in the fourth, the Nationals fought back in the top of the fifth. Michael Taylor once again got things started with a single and moved to second on another sac bunt, this time by Doug Fister, who was on in relief of Strasburg. Jayson Werth picked up his third RBI of the day with a double. Then, Bryce Harper tied the game with a two-out RBI single. Ryan Zimmerman‘s ensuing single put runners on first and third before Ian Desmond singled to put the Nationals on top 5-4.
The lead would prove to be enough. Felipe Rivero and Drew Storen were perfect in their work in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, and Jonathan Papelbon came in for the ninth. Though things got a little interesting with two men on and two out, Papelbon managed to induce a grounder to close the game. The win moves the Nats to 66-63 on the season and allows them to keep pace with the Mets, who won 5-4 over the Red Sox on Sunday.
The Nationals will have their work cut out for them Monday, when they kick off a series with the St. Louis Cardinals, owners of the best record in baseball at 83-46, at Busch Stadium. For the Nationals, it will be Gio Gonzalez (9-7, 4.11 ERA) on the mound against John Lackey (11-8, 2.92 ERA). You can catch the game on MASN2 at 8:15 PM ET. It will certainly be a tough series for the Nationals, but they need to get these tough wins and hope for help from the Mets if they want a shot at the division title.
- Ian Desmond had a great day at the plate. In addition to his RBI single, Desmond also collected three walks on the day. If he can stay hot, it would be a huge boon to the Nats offense moving into September.
- Stephen Strasburg left the game after just four innings, having surrendered four earned runs on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. There didn’t appear to be an injury, but that seems the only logical explanation for Strasburg’s early exit. He threw only 60 pitches, and his fastball lacked the type of velocity he’d had in previous starts.
- It was good to see Michael Taylor back in the field just a few days removed from suffering an injury running into the wall that could have been much worse than it turned out to be. Taylor looked solid in the field, even making an impressive catch near the warning track on the run at one point.