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Nats relish a rare chance to celebrate

Sep 19, 2015, 12:35 AM EST

AP

As Jayson Werth crawled on all fours to touch the plate, his forehead bloodied, his uniform askew, his hair flowing in every possible direction, the Nationals came pouring out of their dugout to celebrate.

Half of them approached Jose Lobaton, the man who lofted the sacrifice fly that made it all possible. The other half swarmed the still-dazed Werth, whose mad dash home secured the run that gave the Nationals a 5-4, 10-inning victory over the Marlins. Max Scherzer grabbed a bottle of chocolate syrup and restored the postgame celebration ritual he initiated earlier this summer.

In that moment, it didn’t seem to matter that all the Nationals did was avoid falling 9 games behind the Mets in an NL East race that truthfully was settled last week. Ballplayers and ballplayers, and a walk-off win is a walk-off win, no matter the circumstances. So they celebrated.

“Just a great team win, everybody around,” Scherzer said. “Everybody did their job today. Everybody had a hand in this and finding a way to get a W. Everybody made great plays all over the diamond, at the plate, on the mound. So it’s exciting when that goes on.”

Sure, it would’ve been even more dramatic had it drawn the Nationals within a couple of games of first place instead of merely holding the Mets’ magic number at 8. But the Nats have long since accepted they don’t control their own fate anymore, and the only thing they can do is go out there and try to win that game that night.

“I think we’ve handled it great,” said Jonathan Papelbon, whose blown save in the top of the ninth made the extra-inning rally necessary. “We’re going to continue to play games to win. And at the end of the day, we’ll see what happens.”

The Nationals nearly didn’t win this one. Their beleaguered bullpen gave up two key runs late, with Felipe Rivero giving up a lead in the eighth before Papelbon gave up the tying run in the ninth. But they also got clutch hits — and clutch baserunning — when they really needed it to overcome those pitching problems.

That included some aggressive baserunning by rookie Trea Turner, who took third base on an eighth-inning wild pitch that barely skipped away from Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. All told, the Nationals picked up seven extra bases on wild pitches or passed balls.

“We saw that can make a huge difference,” manager Matt Williams said. “That’s an opportunity. Ninety feet is always important.”

Turner’s advance to third put him in position to score on Ian Desmond’s sacrifice fly. Michael Taylor’s subsequent RBI single up the middle brought home Bryce Harper with the go-ahead run.

The eventual winning rally also included some aggressive baserunning, with Werth (who led off the inning with a double) taking third when Realmuto couldn’t handle a pitch up-and-in with Desmond squaring around to bunt. That set in motion the chain of events that left Lobaton at the plate with the bases loaded and one out, knowing a flyball to the outfield was needed.

The backup catcher delivered, sending the ball to medium-deep left field. Christian Yelich immediately fired home as Werth took off from third and 27,495 inside the ballpark held their breath.

“I saw him running,” Lobaton said, “and I’m like: ‘Please!'”

Werth knew the play was going to be close, so he did something he doesn’t normally do: Slide headfirst into the plate. His helmet flew off. His face hit the dirt, scraping up his forehead. “An 8 on the crash-landing scale,” he quipped.

Yelich’s throw might’ve beat him, but Realmuto couldn’t hang onto it. Which was a fortuitous thing, because Werth didn’t touch the plate on his first pass. Tyler Moore, standing in the on-deck circle, yelled at him to touch it, so Werth crawled on all fours to get there and ensure plate umpire Chris Conroy gave the safe sign.

“I don’t even know what happened,” Werth said. “I hit my head too hard or something. I need to look at the replay. Desi’s already got the Vine of it up on the team chat … in super slow-mo. I’m sure it’s good.”

All was good for the Nationals at the end of this night. Sure, all they really did was delay the inevitable a bit longer. That’s not on their mind right now, though.

“Look, I mean, in this clubhouse it doesn’t matter if we’re winning or losing or anything,” Scherzer said. “We understand what it takes to play at this level. You have to play with absolutely everything you got. That’s just the way it is. I don’t care what the standings are, how you’ve been swinging the bat, how you’ve been throwing the ball. Every time you show up to the park and go out there and take the diamond, you got to bring it. Every single time. Because the other team is. Tonight, I thought we had a great A-effort out of everybody, and it showed.”

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 19, 2015 at 1:18 AM

    Glad for a win, but really hard to get exuberant at this point.

  2. naterialguy - Sep 19, 2015 at 7:02 AM

    You know if fans learned to take it one game at a time and enjoy each game for what it’s worth they would certainly find more joy in this great game.
    This is baseball. Unlike other sports most teams don’t make the playoffs. Using making the playoffs or winning the WS as a measure of whether a season is successful or not just misses the point.
    The past two nights I’ve had tickets that went unused. I went and would sit on my seat looking at how beautiful the diamond was in the glow of September’s sun with perfect weather, seeing many empty seats and wondering how many people are missing out on such magic because they have fallen into the pervasive win it all or you have failed mentality.
    We have 9 home games left. Then after a glorious fall comes winter. I highly recommend you come out to the ballpark and take it in.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 19, 2015 at 7:35 AM

      +76. I’m glad this team doesn’t just throw up its collective hands and say, “Oh well. It doesn’t mean anything as far as standings, so why put forth any effort.” I remember attending plenty of flat late-season games back in the day. Anybody watching last night could see that they weren’t just mailing it in. If anything, they were trying too hard in some cases. As Max might say, they [bleeping] wanted it. As for me, I can still appreciate a great individual performance, and a great win, whether it’s “meaningful” or not. Heck, back in the day we would have been ecstatic to have been going this deep into the season not yet having been eliminated (even if only mathematically), or even just being over .500. Yeah, it would be awesome to know that we were going into the playoffs this season. But there are no guarantees, either of getting there, or of succeeding there. What are we, Yankees fans? (Oh, and btw, thanks for nothing, Yankees. But I digress.) Well, daggone it, there’s still baseball to be played, and watched. And I’m going to watch it. Heck, the “meaningless” final game last season turned out be be an awesome game. I’m glad I was there. I’m going to be at the last four games this year, too, cheering on and, in some cases, saying goodbye to my guys. Maybe something awesome will happen. Or not. Heck, either way, it beats the heck out of pointy ball. imho. Your mileage may vary. Yeah, I think I”m done now. Ahhh…that felt good. 🙂

      (Oh, and “Just another natsfan1a editorial.” Hat tip Joe Seamhead.)

  3. topnat - Sep 19, 2015 at 7:20 AM

    +1
    Great game to watch last night. Both teams playing to win. I have as much respect for Dee Gordon and the fish as I do the Nats for playing for the love of the game.

  4. ArVAFan - Sep 19, 2015 at 8:38 AM

    This definitely looks like one to add to the “watch in the offseason” list.

    I do have tickets for 5 more games, and as long as they’re playing to win each game , it’s worth being there. I was there before 2012: I’ll be there to wrap up this season, and start looking forward to the next.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 19, 2015 at 9:02 AM

      Speaking of watching, and as previously noted, bonus points to Werth for his earlier performance on second base. “Are you looking at me? Well, I’m the only one here.”

  5. unkyd59 - Sep 19, 2015 at 9:18 AM

    I’ll remember a few things about this one… But mainly it’ll be ” The night Trea Turner Arrived!”. The otherworldly base running, the laser liner to left…. And the picture perfect/textbook catch&tag (nice toss, Lobey!)… All giving us a glimpse of The Next Big Thing….

    • natsfan1a - Sep 19, 2015 at 9:33 AM

      Turner the Burner did put on a show.

  6. janebeard - Sep 19, 2015 at 12:09 PM

    It was breathtaking. I know we are out of it, but those Mets have messed up before. I love to see our guys playing this way, especially as the shadows get longer. Not looking forward to the hot stove quite yet.

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