May 13, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: When Bryce Harper and Matt Williams were ejected in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday afternoon, you couldn’t help but sense that controversy would end up affecting the outcome of this game, good or bad. Turns out it did have a dramatic effect on the outcome, in a surprisingly positive way.
Michael Taylor, who took over for Harper in the cleanup spot following his ejection, launched a grand slam in the top of the ninth off Diamondbacks closer Addison Reed, bringing the Nationals back to win the game and their fifth straight series in stunning fashion.
Jayson Werth also belted a 3-run homer to left-center in the top of the third, then Tyler Moore hit the foul pole for a 2-run, pinch-hit homer in the top of the sixth that tied this game 5-5. That’s when the real fireworks began. Harper was ejected by Rob Drake in the top of the seventh on a check-swing call, upset that Drake wouldn’t appeal to third base umpire Gabe Morales. Williams also was ejected after coming to Harper’s defense, leaving Taylor in the cleanup spot and Randy Knorr managing the final innings of a close ballgame.
The Nationals bullpen got some really big outs along the way, with Tanner Roark, Matt Thornton and Aaron Barrett notching big strikeouts late. But Barrett couldn’t make one final pitch to Yasmany Tomas, who lined a 2-out, RBI single up the middle in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Diamondbacks the lead. That lead was short-lived, though, with Taylor flipping the script in most-dramatic fashion.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Wouldn’t you know Taylor would find himself in this situation: Batting with the bases loaded in the ninth, the spot that would’ve been Harper’s if not for the ejection. And wouldn’t you know the rookie outfielder would seize the moment like that? Taylor crushed a low 1-0 fastball from Reed to center field, sending the ball flying into a little cut-out in the batter’s eye where TV cameras are stationed. The crowd of 19,026 was left in stunned silence over the blast, Taylor’s first career grand slam.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Gio Gonzalez had been quite impressive over his last few starts, working a quick pace, keeping his pitch count down and giving the Nationals innings. But when they needed more of that Wednesday, the left-hander couldn’t deliver. He gave up five runs in five laborious innings, done in by a couple of walks, three extra-base hits and a whole lot of pitches. At one point, Williams came to the mound for a rare visit that didn’t result in a pitching change. The skipper was clearly agitated and let the entire Nats infield have it, with Gonzalez front and center.
KEY STAT: Tanner Roark threw a 96-mph fastball in the sixth inning, matching the hardest pitch he has ever thrown in his big-league career.
UP NEXT: The Nationals head to San Diego for the rest of this road trip and a 4-game series at Petco Park. Doug Fister (2-1, 2.87) faces Tyson Ross (1-3, 3.98) in Thursday’s late-night opener at 10:10 p.m. EDT.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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