Aug 4, 2015, 10:48 PM EDT
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.
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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