Braves closer Billy Wagner, from nearby Crozet, Virginia, came on in the 10th inning with the lead and was able to stop the Nats rally. Wagner allowed a single by Cristian Guzman and it looked like the Nats would have a chance to tie or win the game. But Wagner retired the next three batters to notch only his third save of the season.
Ian Desmond was next and was not asked to bunt with a man on first and no outs.
Manager Jim Riggleman wanted to go for the win with the bullpen getting heavy work and a long schedule ahead.
“Knowing that we have all these games in a row, I didn’t really want to play a tie game. I wanted to win the game right there. At some point If we bunt, they would have a chance to pitch around (Josh) Willingham. I wanted Willingham to get a chance to swing the bat.”
Desmond, who flew out to right field for the first out in the inning, agreed with the chance to swing away in the 10th:
“No, we were home. I don’t think you really play for the tie when you are home. Lefty, righty. I wasn’t really expecting (that call there). I would not have been surprised if I got (the call to bunt), but I didn’t think that I would have to bunt there.”
Wil Nieves pinch hit next and battled to the end against Wagner:
“He threw me two fast balls and I just missed them. He threw me the slider. It is one of his nastiest pitches. He threw me a good one, starting on the outside corner and it almost hit my back foot. He has still has it, throwing like 96 miles per hour. He got ahead of me. The second one I could have gotten the hit, but I fouled it off. Then he finished me off with the slider.”
Willingham then smacked a hot liner to deep left that was caught by Matt Diaz to end the game.
The Nats are now 0-3 in extra inning games.
In the series, hitters 6-7-8-9 in the batting order have combined for a total of 12 hits. That is very good, but the Nats also need 3-4-5 to contribute the long ball some more.
Riggleman gave Willie Harris the start. That moved Pudge up to the 5th spot in the order.
Josh Willingham was used only as a late pinch hitter and defensive replacement, so the middle of the lineup didn’t have that home run punch it needed to win this one. Of course, the Nats wouldn’t of had the chance in the 10th if it wasn’t for Willingham’s dramatic two-run single to tie the game in the 8th.
Ryan Zimmerman has hit the ball hard at times in the series, but has nothing to show for it so far, at 0-8. He did have a first inning sacrifice fly RBI, and his average is still .323.
They really tried to pitch around Adam Dunn all night, the Braves walked the slugger three times. Pudge had two base hits and an RBI, but also struck out twice.
You would love to have some more power from the middle of the order, but maybe Wednesday was not the night to blame the loss on the offense.