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Nats 5, D’backs 4: Late rally saves the day

Aug 4, 2015, 10:48 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals woke up Tuesday morning looking up at somebody else in the NL East standings for the first time since June 19, with a town suddenly worried about its ballclub’s chances this season. There were some more nervous moments as the second game of this series against the Diamondbacks played out, but then came some impressive performances late to assuage everyone’s fears by night’s end.

The Nats burst out of the gates in dramatic style, with Yunel Escobar leading off the bottom of the first with a homer to straightaway center field. Four batters later, they held a 3-0 lead, bringing the home crowd to life. But the Diamondbacks bullpen was able to make up for Patrick Corbin’s disastrous, 1 1/3-inning start and silence the Nationals lineup from that point on, putting pressure on Max Scherzer to hold the early 3-0 lead.

Scherzer wasn’t able to do that, done in by a 5-batter stretch in the top of the fourth when Arizona scored three runs. The Nats ace did bounce back after that, though, keeping the game tied before handing things over to his bullpen, which stepped up big-time in a big spot. Casey Janssen retired the side in the seventh for his ninth consecutive scoreless appearances, and Drew Storen continued his dominant streak over the last week with a perfect eighth.

Somebody needed to deliver the big hit, though, and that somebody proved to be Wilson Ramos. His 2-run, opposite-field single to right in the bottom of the eighth brought Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth home and gave Jonathan Papelbon a lead to save in the ninth. Which the new closer did, overcoming Escobar’s 2-out, run-scoring throwing error to give the Nationals a much-needed victory so they could keep pace with the first-place Mets in the NL East.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: It’s been a struggle for Werth and Ramos all too often this season, and especially of late. But those two came through in a big way during the eighth-inning rally. Werth’s double down the left-field line set the stage for the Nationals, moving Zimmerman 90 feet away from scoring. Ramos then took a nice approach in his at-bat against David Hernandez, calmly poking a soft liner to right field that brought home two runs and gave the Nats the lead.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This was kind of an odd night for Scherzer. He gave up a leadoff bunt single to Ender Inciarte, then cruised through his first three innings. He opened the fourth with a strikeout of Paul Goldschmidt (one of three times he did that to the NL MVP candidate) and ended it with strikeouts of Josh Collmenter and Inciarte. But in between he was roughed up for three runs on three hits and two walks. With his pitch count at a whopping 81, Scherzer returned to the mound for the fifth and then picked up like the bad stretch never happened. He retired eight straight (five on strikeouts) to end his night, finishing at 114 pitches. Take out that little blip in the fourth and he was absolutely dominant. You can’t take that out, of course, so the right-hander wound up with no decision.

KEY STAT: Since the Papelbon trade, Storen has faced 12 batters, retired all 12, striking out six and throwing 32-of-35 pitches for strikes.

UP NEXT: Game 3 of this 4-game series features Gio Gonzalez (8-4, 3.75) against right-hander Rubby De La Rosa (8-5, 4.59) at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday.

  1. Section 222 - Aug 4, 2015 at 10:57 PM

    I had complete confidence that Pap would not be unnerved by the Esco error and would shut things down. A clutch performance, following clutch hits by Werth and Ramos. Great win.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2015 at 11:57 PM

      Well said. Glad I made it in for this one to see Papelbon’s 1st home save.

      • Section 222 - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:05 AM

        Seemed like a great game to be at in person. Lots of excitement. I’ll be there tomorrow and expect a Harper show. He’s due.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:13 AM

        I’m supposed to go deep sea fishing tomorrow. Contemplating driving back to be to DC around 5:30 to get back at 9pm. Then head to a college showcase. Will be back this weekend for games.

      • rayvil01 - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:15 AM

        I didn’t realize you were going to be there. Would have liked to have said Hello.

        Seemed to me that the Nats barreled a lot of balls. Could have easily been a blowout.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:25 AM

        I was in Section 122. I now have glasses so I can see far away. The humidity was so bad I couldn’t get my glasses un-fogged and the lights so bright it was crazy so I took them off.

        Rendon is so good he will win multiple batting crowns. Very unlucky tonight. The Ramos RBI single made no difference if the infield was back. If Ramos would do more of that short 2 strike swing he will get more hits.

        Glad to see him be the hero.

        Storen was complete filth. Papelbon was nails. Janssen was also good.

        I think Scherzer was winded in his breakdown inning. Luckily he didn’t put his team in a deficit.

        Goldschmidt K’d 4 times. yes, 4 times. Hard to believe.

        I would be shocked if Desi starts tomorrow. RZim needs a day off.

      • therealjohnc - Aug 5, 2015 at 10:39 AM

        Interesting – I was also at the game, and I didn’t get the feeling that RZim needs the day off. I thought he continued to smoke the ball and continued to have bad BABIP luck. His batted ball profile this week is very good (~26% line drives, above his career average of 22%) driven by an excellent hard contact% (~69%). Despite that he has a BABIP since he returned of .222. [Data from his Fangraphs page]

        He’s moving well defensively, too – he made a nifty pick of a hard hit ball down the line last night and turned it into a routine out. The team is better with Ryan Zimmerman on the field and in the lineup.

  2. adcwonk - Aug 4, 2015 at 10:59 PM

    Nothing like winning a close one, eh? 😉

  3. Danny - Aug 4, 2015 at 10:59 PM

    That was a roller coaster. Would have been devastating to lose that one.

  4. senators69 - Aug 4, 2015 at 11:03 PM

    Hope the Nats can start something now.
    In honor of my boy Rowdy Roddy Piper (RIP), here is a clip the Nats should play in their clubhouse to get them going:

    • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:23 AM

      I don’t know if this is supposed to be funny or what, but given the tens of thousands of Americans who die of gun violence each year I don’t see how this is appropriate for being shown in a baseball clubhouse (or anywhere else, for that matter).

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 5, 2015 at 5:07 AM

      WHy the hell would you put this on Nats Insider? It is just truly sick.

      • senators69 - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:03 PM

        Apologies to all. I was focused on his speech (first few seconds), not the rest. Made a mistake by posting this. Did not intend to offend anyone. Best to all.

  5. senators5 - Aug 4, 2015 at 11:21 PM

    Definitely playing like a .500 ball club, but the good news is this is the NL East.

  6. adcwonk - Aug 4, 2015 at 11:27 PM

    Mike Hessman, age 37, breaks the all time minor league HR record — 433 HRs.

    Wow.

    Sounds like a movie 😉

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2015 at 11:58 PM

    Phil Wood on the radio was calling Drew Storen the 8th inning closer and his feeling is that Drew’s agent wants his player next year paid like a closer and all the Holds be added to his Saves. OK Phil, good hearing from you.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:18 AM

      If I were Drew Storen’s agent, that’s exactly how I would present his case. He’s proven he can close. He’s got superb ERA, WHIP, FIP, SOs, etc. (knock on wood). He was bounced to the 8th inning to improve the overall bullpen and he seems to have taken it well. Arbitration panels value Saves, so his agent is going to want to avoid arbitration by getting a contract done. Will Mike Rizzo go for it? We’ll see. But no harm in making the argument.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:27 AM

        Drew nailed down the 2nd, 3rd and 4th batters in their lineup which included Pollock and Goldy. That was big. I like him in the 8th.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:28 AM

        “Arbitration panels value Saves, so his agent is going to want to avoid arbitration by getting a contract done. Will Mike Rizzo go for it? We’ll see. But no harm in making the argument.”

        If all this is about money, pay the kid like a closer.

      • zmunchkin - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:53 AM

        +22!!!!!!

    • zmunchkin - Aug 5, 2015 at 8:28 AM

      Many folks have often said that many times the middle of the lineup starts the 8th, suggesting that a shut-down 8th is just as, if not more, important. That’s another question the PitchFx data can answer – the distribution of the batter order # for the lead off guy in the 8th and the 9th.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 5, 2015 at 8:31 AM

        I agree. Storen faced Pollock and Goldschmidt.

  8. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:16 AM

    Ghost — that’s not a bad idea. That’s probably the way the Royals look at Davis. In this day and age, one can’t succeed without the other.

    Reason I checked in was MLB Network just said As SS has 29 errors. Nats are lucky to have Desmond.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:34 AM

      If Storen was pissed over money, pay the kid like a closer if he stays this elite. I also wouldn’t mind seeing a 2 year extension.

  9. scmargenau - Aug 5, 2015 at 12:20 AM

    Great game. Listened to whole game on radio. Charlie and Dave make it so exciting. Bats may be heating up finally. Still worried about desi… :-/

  10. saintpaddy - Aug 5, 2015 at 9:16 AM

    After he struck out with Zimm and Werth on base you could hear on the TV broadcast booing. I think frustrations are finally boiling over with his performance. I’ve been to several games and never heard the home fans boo someone till last night.

  11. raleighnat - Aug 5, 2015 at 11:11 AM

    I hate it for Desi….first class guy. But he has got to sit at least some. Espinosa is rotting. I wouldn’t be surprised to see MW finally put in Espi only to see him struggle given the extended bench time.

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