The Nats’ magic number to clinch the National League East has dropped to four, thanks to the Braves’ comeback 6-5 win over the Marlins in Atlanta.
Roark went six innings, allowing three runs, and Trea Turner came through with a two-run single in a three-run sixth-inning rally for the Nats’ 86th win of the season.
Manager Dusty Baker said Turner’s hit helped the Nats finally break through against Aaron Nola and the Phillies bullpen.
“That was big because chances aren’t he’s going to strike out or he wasn’t going to hit into a double play, so we thought he was going to put the ball in play,” Baker said. “That was a big hit and when you come back, you want to come all the way back or else invariably, a lot of times, you end up losing that game. We got some big hits tonight.”
Roark (12-9) knew the sixth inning was likely his last as he started the frame with 91 pitches. He managed to record three outs in the sixth on nine pitches, thanks to a 6-4-3 double play on a grounder off the bat of Jorge Alfaro, who had homered against him earlier in the game.
“I was thinking that would be my last inning, so I was going out there with everything I got and just trying to make them swing at my pitches and not like they swung at earlier in the game,” Roark said. “Just try to get ahead and attack them, keep them off balance.”
Down 3-1, the Nats rally started with a single by Adam Lind. He moved to third on a wild pitch by Nola and a passed ball by Alfaro. Matt Wieters brought Lind home with a run-scoring single to cut the Phillies’ lead to 3-2.
“Get a good pitch to hit,” Turner said of the clutch knock. “The first couple at-bats, I feel like I had some pitches to hit and didn’t capitalize, and he threw two tough pitches in the first two and then got the third one in the middle of the zone and put a good swing on it.”
Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle held the Phillies to one hit with no walks and three strikeouts to end the game. Doolittle is now 16-for-16 in save opportunities with the Nats and has 19 saves overall.
“They all bring something to the table,” Baker said of his trio of late-inning arms. “They were all closers at some point in time in their career and they do bring something different. All three of them are pretty good at pitching to right-handers and left-handers, which makes it a lot easier on me because you don’t have to switch and go through your whole bullpen trying to get matchups.”
Michael A. Taylor made an outstanding catch to save extra bases off the bat of Andrés Blanco in the seventh. He tracked the fly ball to deep center field and then crashed off the wall to make the catch.
“I think I had a little room left right there,” Taylor said. “I knew he got it pretty well. The ball carries here pretty well. So I was just trying to get to the wall as fast as I could.”
Baker said it was the biggest defensive play of the game.
“Michael Taylor saved the game on that home run he took way,” Baker said. “That was a tremendous play. You’re used to seeing Michael do things like that in center field. He’s becoming one of the best in the business.”
Now the Nats’ magic number to clinch the division is four.
“That number keeps shrinking and that’s a good thing,” Turner said. “You want it to go to zero as fast as it can. It’s nice to not have to see a 20 or 30 up there, but we still got baseball to play and we got to get those wins and kind of keep rolling for the rest of the year.”
The Nationals have won four in a row and now lead the Marlins by 19 games in the division.
Victor Robles made his major league debut with a pinch-hitting appearance in the seventh. He faced off against Phillies reliever Adam Morgan (3-2) and flew out to right field for the second out of the inning. He still got a nice round of applause from the 26,267 faithful at Nats Park as he made his way back to the dugout.
Turner, who certainly remembers his first big league game, let Robles be to himself before and during his first contest with the Nats.
“They got there for a reason, they got here for a reason,” Turner said. “They’re good players. A lot of the guys, I tell them let me know if you need anything, but I let them go and that’s for older, wiser people to tell them what to do.”