Jun 10, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: As was the case Tuesday night, the Nationals and Yankees found themselves in a tight pitchers’ duel for six innings. And as was the case Tuesday, the Yankees then busted out for four runs in the seventh to take the lead. This time, though, the Nats stormed back to tie the game … and then won it in extra innings.
The Nationals held a 2-0 lead after six thanks to Danny Espinosa’s homer and back-to-back doubles by Espinosa and Denard Span, plus Gio Gonzalez’s strong start. But Gonzalez faded in the seventh, and the Nats bullpen couldn’t stop the bleeding. The Yankees scored four runs off Felipe Rivero and Aaron Barrett, with some help from an ailing Span (whose bad bad may have prevented him from tracking down a pair of deep flyballs to center) and a lucky bounce of a grounder off second base.
Down to their last six outs, the Nationals turned to a familiar face to save the day: Michael Taylor. The rookie outfielder (inserted for defense the previous inning) delivered again at the plate, driving a 2-run, opposite-field homer to tie the game in the top of the eighth. It was Taylor’s fifth homer of the season, the last four of which all tied or gave the Nats the lead in the fifth inning or later.
And this one proved really meaningful, thanks to the Nationals’ game-winning rally in the 11th. Tyler Moore started it off with a single to left, then advanced 180 feet on a sac bunt and a groundball. That set the stage for Span, who despite a bad back that sidelined him Tuesday night, managed to leg out a chopper to second base for his third hit of the day. This one was the biggest of all, giving the Nationals a much-needed win and a series split.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: This notion would’ve sounded ludicrous three months ago, but it’s absolutely true right now: The Nationals need to find ways to get Espinosa in their lineup on a regular basis. He has made that so by completely revamping his left-handed swing, and the results have been staggering. With a 3-hit performance Wednesday (including a solo homer in the fifth), Espinosa now sports a .238/.340/.451 slash line from the left side of the plate, with a sizable increase in home run rate (from 2 percent to 5 percent) and a sizable decrease in strikeout rate (from 37 percent to 24 percent). So, how do the Nats keep him in the lineup? Well, with Jayson Werth out til August and his replacements struggling, Espinosa looks like a good bet to get his first career start in left field sometime soon.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This was among the best starts Gonzalez has put together all season, though it ended sooner and not as positive as the lefty would have liked. Gonzalez carried a shutout into the seventh, displaying solid command of both his fastball and curveball. He was fairly efficient (by his usual standards) but not quite efficient enough to give Matt Williams the seven full innings he coveted. Gonzalez wound up getting pulled at 103 pitches, recording only one out in the seventh. Overall, though, the Nats have to be pleased with the way the left-hander looked on this day.
KEY STAT: For the first time in his professional career, Bryce Harper faced a pitcher young than him. Left-hander Jacob Lindgren (22 years, 90 days) entered in the top of the eighth and got Harper (22 years, 237 days) to fly out to left.
UP NEXT: This odd, three-parts-of-the-country road trip continues with a 4-game weekend series in Milwaukee. Thursday’s 8:10 p.m. EDT opener features Tanner Roark (2-2, 3.16) vs. veteran right-hander Matt Garza (4-7, 5.09).
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
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.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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