Jul 18, 2015, 3:25 PM EST
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Well, if you had to condense it down to one word, it would be: Weird. The opener of this series between NL powers began Friday evening under normal circumstances, with the Dodgers taking a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning on Adrian Gonzalez’s homer off Jordan Zimmermann. And that’s when this became anything but a normal ballgame.
Three separate power outages at Nationals Park forced the suspension of the game in the top of the sixth, with the Nats leading 3-2 at that point thanks to Yunel Escobar’s 2-run homer. It resumed Saturday afternoon, with Tanner Roark taking the mound for what technically was his second inning of relief, and quickly turned into a tie game when Gonzalez homered to left field.
So now this turned into a battle of bullpens. The Nationals loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh but couldn’t push the winning run across. Then they put a man on in the bottom of the eighth, and this time they got the job done. Matt den Dekker, sent up to pinch-hit, pounced on Pedro Baez’s first pitch and sent it flying into the second deck in right field, giving the Nats the lead
The Nationals then rode scoreless innings of relief from Aaron Barrett, Casey Janssen and Drew Storen to take the very odd opener of this weekend’s series.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: He isn’t particularly known for his power stroke, but den Dekker certainly does make the most of the homers he hits. Last month, he clubbed a 2-run shot deep to right in Philadelphia to help lead the Nationals to a win. And on Saturday, he came up to pinch-hit in the bottom of the eighth and immediately launched Pedro Baez’s first pitch into the second deck down the right-field line, giving the Nats the lead. It has been contributions from players like den Dekker that have allowed the Natiobals to withstand the prolonged losses of four key lineup regulars to injury.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Casey Janssen spoke passionately last weekend about his desire to prove to the Nationals he deserves to be their primary eighth-inning guy. If the veteran reliever keeps pitching like this, he’ll earn that job soon enough. He tossed another 1-2-3 inning in a tight game Saturday, retiring the heart of the Dodgers order in the top of the eighth. Combined with his last appearance in Baltimore, Janssen has now retired six consecutive batters, four via strikeout. Janssen knows he doesn’t have the stuff to overpower hitters, but he feels like if he locates well and mixes things up he can still make hitters swing and miss. His last two times out, he has proven that.
KEY STAT: Tanner Roark has now surrendered 11 home runs (most on the Nationals’ pitching staff) even though he ranks fifth with 64 innings pitched.
QUOTABLE, PART 1: den Dekker on his homer: “First-pitch fastball, I think that’s what it was. I was just ready to be aggressive early, coming off the bench you gotta be in there and be ready to go. That’s what I did, just got a pitch over the plate and got the barrel on it… It’s just exciting to be a part of the win and a part of the team.”
QUOTABLE, PART 2: Matt Williams on the game being played across two days: “It’s good if you win it. It’s a humdinger of a game if you win it. If you don’t, then it doesn’t feel as good.”
UP NEXT: Don’t go anywhere, because today’s regularly scheduled game is coming up next. It’s Doug Fister (3-4, 4.08) vs. Clayton Kershaw (6-6, 2.85).
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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