Pinch-hitter Scott Hairston came up in the eleventh and delivered the game-winning, walk-off winner. He drove a pitch to deep left field that scored Jayson Werth from third base on a sac fly, lifting the Nationals to an 11-inning thrilling 6-5 win over the Pirates.
Hairston knew it was so late in the game that a lefty-righty matchup wasn’t the only way he could pinch-hit.
“I figured the pitching spot was up third,” Hairston told reporters. “I don’t think we had anybody else on the bench. So I was just preparing as much as I can, whoever was in the game and I’ve been facing a lot of righties lately anyway. I was just so focused on getting the job done especially when Denard (Span) got that runner over, what an at-bat he had. It was a great team win.”
Facing Pirates reliever Brandon Cumpton, Hairston spoke about what he was trying to do in the key at-bat to just keep the game alive.
“Yeah, actually I just think just drive the ball to the outfield,” he said. “Obviously, a hard ground ball can get the job done too if it finds a hole. But your percentages are better if you get it to the outfield. So I just had my mind getting a pitch that I could handle early and putting a good swing on it and driving the ball and it worked out.”
Hairston’s RBI was set up by another player who had pinch-hit in the ninth, but stayed in the game to play right field. A veteran named Werth who was working his way back from a shoulder injury that kept him out of the lineup for almost a full week.
“Yeah, feeling better everyday,” Werth said of the AC joint in his right shoulder. “It’s one of those things where it’s an injury I’ve never had before. So don’t really know what I’m dealing with. Been talking to a lot of people, the trainers and doctors just trying to gauge exactly where we’re at. There’s a lot at stake this season and I want to be a part of it. So I don’t want to come back before I’m ready. But at the same time, I felt like we had progressed enough and felt good enough to get in there.
“I haven’t swung a bat for like a week. Not a whole lot you could do there. When you play this long and you play this deep into the season, the second you come back from the All-Star break it’s not like you miss a whole lot so felt pretty good still.”
Werth talked about the moments leading up to his entry into the game and what manager manager Matt Williams was thinking.
“Especially in the situation, it was 4-2 and Matt said ‘we’re not going to use you,’ ” Werth said. “When the game tied up I went back down there and swung again and felt like, if I had to, I could make a difference. Came back out and told him I was available, situation came up and he used me.”
The Nationals were down 2-0 and 5-4. They also led 4-2 in the seventh. All that mattered in the end was the Nationals found a way to win their season-high sixth straight victory.
“It was a crazy game. We battled back, like the way we are playing right now, of course,” Werth said. “We’re winning games. Just the way we are going about it. We are not giving up. Guys are tough outs at the dish. Just doing whatever it takes to win games right now. It’s been fun to watch. I haven’t been able to be a part of it. But it was good to get out there and help my team win. These guys are good.”
Werth said the shoulder felt “fine” during the at-bats despite not swinging a bat for six days.
“I made a little adjustment today just trying to take the pressure off it,” he said. “It really kind of just shortened up my swing a little bit. It was a similar adjustment I made after coming off the DL in 2012. Just trying to be short, did some old drills. It really, I think it helped. It was a good adjustment.”
The Nationals had that 4-2 lead in the ninth before closer Rafael Soriano suffered only his fifth blown save of the season. Soriano had trouble himself making sense of what went wrong during the Pirates late game rally.
“I feel great. But every pitch that I throw was unbelievable like, never happen before like that,” Soriano said. “(Doug Fister) throw great game, he supposed to win that game. To me I feel bad for him.
“In the ninth, I know what I had to do. Try to make a good pitch and nothing happened. (Williams) made a good decision, take me out and put Matt (Thornton in).”
Did Soriano feel like his location was off?
“I don’t think it be too good,” Soriano said. “I know the last three or four games got to be like I’m too comfortable, not be too easy for me. It happens sometime. What I have to say, I be happy we win, I feel bad for Fister, and come back tomorrow.
“You know I try to figure out like what happened, what I have to do for tomorrow game and figure it out.”
Fister managed to wiggle out of a jam in the sixth that could have lost the game. With the bases loaded and no one out, the Pirates managed only two runs.
“I think today was a tribute to the team mentality in general,” Fister said. “That’s a lesson learned for us knowing that if something goes wrong, there are 24 guys right behind you that picks you up, whether its offense or whether its defense.
“Guys are playing well together. It’s J-Dub (Werth) coming off the bench after not seeing a pitch for how many days? It’s stuff like that. Guys are fighting for each other and that’s going to be a huge key for us later on in the season.”