The biggest comeback of the season in the opener of a four-game series to snap a five-game skid?
A nail-biting low-scoring affair culminating in a dramatic walk-off win in the second game?
Suddenly, the Nationals have a different kind of streak going, and they have been via a pair of thrillers.
Pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds crushed a walk-off solo homer over the left field wall to lift the Nats a 3-2 win over the Marlins before 32,652 at Nats Park. It was their second win a row, their 13th straight over the Marlins and the Nats’ first walk-off home run of the season.
For Reynolds, it was his second career walk-off homer - the first time was June 26, 2016, in the Rockies 9-7 win over the Diamondbacks - and it came off a 3-1 offering from Marlins closer Kyle Barraclough. It was his eighth homer with the Nats and first since June 29 against the Phillies.
The homer also helped to erase the frustration of the eighth inning when the Nats loaded the bases with no outs, then recorded three consecutive flyouts against Marlins reliever Drew Steckenrider to abruptly end the huge scoring opportunity.
“That was a big pick-me-up,” said manager Davey Martinez. “Can’t say enough about Mark. He’s that guy. At that moment, we needed one swing, just like that. Thought about pinch-hitting Michael (A. Taylor). He gets on, you can steal, but then what? We need someone who can hit a home run right now. Mark was the perfect guy. And he did.”
“I know Davey put me in for one reason,” Reynolds said. “I got ahead in the count and was able to ... he missed a spot, tried to go away, and the whole at-bat, everything was kind of sailing inside, so I was looking for it right there and was able to catch up to it.”
Trea Turner, Adam Eaton and Wilmer Difo each had two hits. Eaton and Difo provided RBI singles in the fourth to give the Nats a 2-1 advantage. But the Marlins tied it in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk from Nats starter Gio Gonzalez.
Gonzalez allowed only two runs, but avoided major damage thanks to some timely outs, including back-to-back strikeouts to end the fifth when the Marlins still had the bases loaded. He lasted five innings, but was taxed, tying a season high with 114 pitches.
Gonzalez scattered eight hits, walked four and struck out four, benefiting from a season-high four double plays behind him. He has now handed out 13 free passes in his last three starts.
Eaton said the Nationals know what to expect from Gonzalez and were not surprised when he managed to wiggle out of jam after jam.
“That’s kind of Gio’s M.O. Get a runner on third base with nobody out, strike the next two guys out and then get a pop fly,” Eaton said. “That’s kind of how he goes about his business. He’s made a career out of it, a heck of a career at that. It’s an art for him to get into those jams and get out of it. We are all biting our nails and are very scared in the moment. He ended up getting out of things. That’s what he does and we’re happy he’s on our team.”
The manager said he went to Reynolds to win the game, but also to save his ‘pen - and Jefry Rodriguez, who will start Monday night in Pittsburgh.
“It was huge. Honestly, that was on my mind as one of the big reasons why I like Mark in that situation,” Martinez explained. “We would have burned Jefry and then Monday would have been another conversation. It was a big win. I always tell these guys, one more than the other guy. Whether it’s 14-12, 3-2, get one more than the other guys.”
It was the Nats’ third pinch-hit walk-off homer and first since May 9, 2016, against the Tigers.
“I feel like the team seems more inspired,” Difo said via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “And that’s the way it feels in the dugout. And hopefully from here on, things are going to change.
The Nats have now climbed above .500 again at 44-43. Their 13-game win streak over the Marlins is their longest over any opponent since their 2005 inception.