Over the first six innings of tonight’s ballgame, the Nationals managed just one run and four hits. Over the final three frames, they put up five runs on eight hits.
There was a clear shift in the seventh inning, when Matt Cain began to tire. With his pitch count rising and the muggy conditions possibly beginning to wear on him, Cain served up back-to-back homers to Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa in the seventh. Pinch hitter Mark DeRosa then doubled, and he came around to score on Bryce Harper’s RBI double to left.
All of a sudden, it was a game again.
“We threw a lot at them, we hit the two home runs and that got a little momentum going,” manager Davey Johnson said. “I was hoping we would tie it or go ahead there, we had a good opportunity. But, I had a good feeling. I know their closers had some problems, and if we could stay close ...”
They did stay close, as Henry Rodriguez and Tyler Clippard delivered a scoreless eighth and ninth, respectively. Then the Nats struck again in the ninth off closer Santiago Casilla. Tyler Moore led off the inning with a double, Steve Lombardozzi reached when his sacrifice bunt couldn’t be handled by Casilla and Harper tied the game with a single to right.
Three batters later, Adam LaRoche won it with what could have been a 4-6-3 double play but turned into an RBI fielder’s choice. Not known for his speed - to say the least - LaRoche’s hustle down the line might have rushed shortstop Brandon Crawford’s throw and allowed the Nats to earn the win.
“That’s what (LaRoche) was talking about, his wheels,” Johnson said with a laugh. “It still beat ya, the throw beat ya.”
Ross Detwiler got hit around pretty good, allowing 11 hits over five innings, yet he was able to hold the Giants to just three runs. That ability to keep the game close played a large role in the eventual outcome.
“It’s a pretty tough club, a pretty good hitting club,” Johnson said. “The way that we’ve been playing, if we can just stay close, I feel pretty good. It helped to not use the guys I didn’t want to use. I didn’t want to use (Ryan) Mattheus, I didn’t want to use any of the left handers. With Colorado coming in, we’re in pretty good shape.”
The Giants entered this series 74-1 in their last 75 games in which they led by at least three runs at one point. Each of the last two days, however, the Nats overcame a three-plus-run deficit to score the victory.
“There’s no quit in this ballclub,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of character on this ballclub. Now that everyone’s kind of doing their thing, it’s easy to get a little momentum going. Our offense came alive against three pretty good pitchers. Our pitching staff is pleased. I’m pleased. Rick Eckstein’s pleased. It’s been fun.”