How many times has a late inning error and a quick deficit deflated the Nats the last two seasons? That is what happens to 100-loss teams everyday and twice on Sunday.
Not this year.
After Milwaukee went ahead 3-2 in the 8th on a throwing error charged to Alberto Gonzalez (because Cristian Guzman short armed the throw at first base), the Nats attacked the Brewers bullpen for three runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to take the lead 5-3. What!!!??!!!
And they did it with the aggressive baseball that Jim Riggleman has employed since the outset where the little plays pay big dividends.
Alberto Gonzalez base hit. Josh Willingham hit by pitch (Hammer had a game tying HR earlier). Ian Desmond sacrifice advances the runners. Adam Kennedy 2-run single for two go ahead runs. Kennedy steals 2nd. Wil Nieves single scores Kennedy. Suddenly 3-2 deficit turns into 5-3 lead. Sean Burnett and Matt Capps called upon to save the night.
Really, how many times in Nats history has a Ryan Zimmerman double play grounder came in the same inning where the team scores three dramatic runs? I would say never, but it is a short history.
The Nats agree the back-to-back come-from-behind wins are important for this team believing they can win. They have outscored the Phils and Brewers 9-2 in the late innings the last two games.
Josh Willingham: “It builds confidence. You feel like you are down a run or two late you are not out of the game. Bullpen has done a good job of holding games for us. It gives you confidence that you are able to come back.”
Adam Kennedy: “When you can win games when you haven’t played great that is a really good sign. You know these guys are going to start swinging the bats. Pitchers will settle in. Hopefully to continue to play well around that. If we have all that it should be a fun year.”
John Lannan (who went 7 innings, allowed 2 runs on 7 hits with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts in 102 pitches, 67 for strikes): “It shows that we have a lot of depth. Unfortunately, Dunner got thrown out of the game early today and we haven’t had Zimm. But we have been able to win games. I don’t think we have hit our stride yet. That fact that we are 5-5 shows a lot of promise for us. We are just building off each win. Once we get Zimm back healthy we will just play better ball.”
Ian Desmond: “We have been playing good baseball. We let a couple of games slip away. We are starting to get hot right now. We are just playing the way that we know how to play. We have a good lineup. We don’t even have all of our weapons in there right now. I am looking forward to seeing what happens here in the future.”
The Nats fought the rain, a very game Yovani Gallardo, a challenging Brewers lineup, another late inning deficit, and were still able to pull this one out.
Suddenly the Nats are 5-5 (and have won 12 of their last 17 games since September 28th). A win on Saturday, means the team is.... Well, let’s just say it is not 2009 any more.