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Nats 5, Braves 2 (10): Taylor caps stunning rally with homer

Sep 4, 2015, 10:31 PM EST

AP

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: There are no guarantees in baseball, not even when facing a team that has lost 16 of its last 17 and is giving up runs like they’re on clearance. So it was that one night after mauling the Braves during a 15-1 victory, the Nationals found themselves locked into a tight, low-scoring affair with their free-falling division rivals.

But just when it looked like they were going to squander yet another golden opportunity with poor execution from their bullpen and a lineup that couldn’t produce in key situations, the Nationals stormed back to win in as dramatic fashion as you could script.

Down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, the Nationals got a leadoff double from Yunel Escobar, a sacrifice bunt from Ian Desmond and then a huge, 2-out RBI single from Matt den Dekker that tied the game off Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino, who was trying to earn a 2-inning save. The Nats kept the pressure on and had a chance to win it right there, but they wound up needing extra innings to do it.

Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each singled, setting the stage for Michael Taylor to be the hero. Having missed the last two games with a banged-up knee, the young outfielder was brought up to pinch-hit with the game on the line. And he wound up launching a moonshot into the Red Porch in left-center, rounding the bases after his version of a Kirk Gibson walk-off winner.

The Braves had taken the lead in the top of the eighth, with Drew Storen giving up yet another run in a big spot via Freddie Freeman’s double and Nick Swisher’s pinch-hit RBI single. The former closer gave up only seven total runs in his first 43 appearances this season. Now setting up Jonathan Papelbon, he has given up 14 runs in his last 11 games.

That proved insignificant by night’s end, though, with Papelbon ultimately tossing a scoreless ninth and 10th thanks to the double-switch that brought den Dekker into the game in the first place.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Taylor’s homer was straight out of Hollywood. Or Dodger Stadium. Dealing with a banged-up knee for several days, he was held out of the lineup tonight. Matt Williams avoided him as long as he could, but by the 10th he was the best remaining option on the bench. Boy, was he. Taylor launched a ball off Brandon Cunniff that seemed to hang in the air for about 30 seconds before landing in the Red Porch, setting off a mad celebration at Nationals Park.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: We haven’t spent enough time this season lauding Felipe Rivero, but we should, because the rookie left-hander has been a revelation. Matt Williams has been summoning him more and more in key situations, and more and more Rivero has been delivering in those situations. Tonight, he was asked to record six big outs in a 1-1 game, and he did it with aplomb, needing only 19 pitches to do it. Rivero finished off his evening with a strikeout of Cameron Maybin, dialing it up to 99 mph in the process.

KEY STAT: Bryce Harper has now reached base in 14 of his last 18 plate appearances.

UP NEXT: After a rare bout of wildness his last time out, Joe Ross (5-5, 3.50) returns to the mound Saturday night to face maybe the unluckiest pitcher in baseball history: Shelby Miller (5-12, 2.56). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

  1. Drew - Sep 4, 2015 at 10:33 PM

    You gotta believe!

    GYFNG!!!

  2. Joe Seamhead - Sep 4, 2015 at 10:35 PM

    Great job, from top to bottom, all in all. Though I was cussing a little earlier.

  3. unkyd59 - Sep 4, 2015 at 10:37 PM

    I didn’t watch…. Was there chocolate sauce…?

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 4, 2015 at 10:38 PM

      And anything else they could find.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 5, 2015 at 11:46 AM

      No. Not in second place. Second place gets no chocolate. Get the lead back, then we’ll get chocolate.

  4. Joe Seamhead - Sep 4, 2015 at 10:44 PM

    Heading to the 11th in Miami.

  5. Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 4, 2015 at 10:45 PM

    Meaningful September games… gotta love it.

  6. Section 222 - Sep 4, 2015 at 10:47 PM

    That was really quite a win. Such a clutch hits by MdD and MAT. Really impressive. And I just saw a tweet from Chris Johnson that says that they were high school teammates. How cool is that!?

    I hope JaneB saw the interview with Pap after the game. Ought to put to rest definitively the slander that he’s a clubhouse cancer. Totally into the team and willing to do anything necessary to win. “All hands on deck,” he said.

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 4, 2015 at 10:57 PM

      I tip my hat to denDekker especially. I like being about to admit when I’m wrong. I hope he keeps coming through with key hits! As to MAT? The guy defies logic with his ability to come through so often with RISP. I also remember some who wanted to bench him, and/or send him down.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 4, 2015 at 10:58 PM

        Edit: I like being able to admit when I’m wrong.

      • Section 222 - Sep 4, 2015 at 11:00 PM

        rintintin would be proud, wherever he is. 🙂

  7. Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 4, 2015 at 10:52 PM

    Credit to MW for putting Pap out there for 2 innings… I was blown away

    • letswin3 - Sep 4, 2015 at 11:14 PM

      Yeah, only a few days ago MW said that Pap is his closer and intimated that it was his only role. I’m guessing that someone (Rizzo?) got ahold of him and explained that everyone has every role when you’re trying to become a payoff team. Frankly, MW has been a slow learner in many areas.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 4, 2015 at 11:33 PM

        Yes. Yes he has.

      • peewilly - Sep 5, 2015 at 9:26 AM

        He actually played it by the book. On the road in extra innings you need to save your closer to close. At home, pitch your closer in the 9th since there will not be a close situation.

  8. rmoore446 - Sep 4, 2015 at 10:55 PM

    Wow! What a game. I’ll be driving in from the Shenandoah Valley this weekend and have tickets for Sunday and Monday games. Can’t miss this fun. Let’s keep it going! I’m so impressed with Taylor. He will be a star for many years!!

  9. Joe Seamhead - Sep 4, 2015 at 11:01 PM

    FISH WIN!

    • Nats Fan Zee - Sep 4, 2015 at 11:09 PM

      And then there was FIVE!

  10. Section 222 - Sep 4, 2015 at 11:02 PM

    Sweet! Marlins walk it off!

  11. raleighnat - Sep 4, 2015 at 11:05 PM

    Am I crazy or did MW pull out all the stops. Pinch runners, 3 innings for pap and Storen….just seemed like he was managing like this was must win (which it was!)

  12. jfmii - Sep 4, 2015 at 11:05 PM

    That was fun

  13. Drew - Sep 4, 2015 at 11:07 PM

    Fish beat the Mets!

    Lead drops to 5!

  14. texnat1 - Sep 4, 2015 at 11:09 PM

    Credit to MW for his managing tonight. He was aggressive and decisive.

  15. Joe Seamhead - Sep 4, 2015 at 11:12 PM

    From Mark’s post game summary:

    The Braves had taken the lead in the top of the eighth, with Drew Storen giving up yet another run in a big spot via Freddie Freeman’s double and Nick Swisher’s pinch-hit RBI single. The former closer gave up only seven total runs in his first 43 appearances this season. Now setting up Jonathan Papelbon, he has given up 14 runs in his last 11 games..

    This is very disquieting. Drew was great last night, but his past 11 games have been overall horrible.

  16. hummel26 - Sep 4, 2015 at 11:47 PM

    When’s the last time the Nats gained ground two days in a row?

  17. unkyd59 - Sep 5, 2015 at 12:14 AM

    I hope there’s lots of opportunities for all the young BP guns, here in the stretch… They may be half the ‘pen, next year….

  18. stoatva - Sep 5, 2015 at 12:28 AM

    I hated to see Storen facing Freddie Freeman to lead off the eighth, but we were fresh out of better options even if Matt were willing to consider them.

    One of the best, most satisfying baseball games I’ve attended. Have seen others comparable but none better.

  19. Dave - Sep 5, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    I never thought Pap was going to be a “clubhouse cancer.” I always thought his bad rep was based on a lazy, stupid, superficial narrative after one moment of frustration in Philly last year.

    His demeanor since joining the Nats has justified my confidence. That interview after the game yesterday showed a confident team leader who took charge–not only of the last two innings, but also of that media moment.

    I am feeling pretty good about September now–not sure they will make it to the postseason, but confident that they can.

    • Section 222 - Sep 6, 2015 at 12:29 AM

      Just saw this comment and agree 100% Dave. Pap has done his job since he got here and last night was really impressive. Drew needs to watch him and learn.

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