Remember that 11-inning game on July 20, in which the Nationals jumped on top of the Braves 9-0 only to blow the lead and fall in extras 11-10?
Of course you do. How could you possibly wipe that disaster out of your memory bank?
Is it possible last night’s 5-4 13-inning Nationals win was even wackier? Thanks to my four hours of sleep, I’m too tired to really compare the two, but they’re close.
For whatever reason, these two teams love playing ridiculous extra-inning games which drain both viewers and participants alike.
Jordan Zimmermann went into yesterday’s game leading the majors in ERA. In arguably his biggest start of the season, he had one of his worst performances, allowing four runs over just five innings, an outing which he clearly wasn’t too pleased with.
“I was terrible,” he said.
Well, there you go. The Nationals’ bullpen was less terrible. All seven Nationals relievers combined to throw eight scoreless innings despite the fact that they allowed six walks and put the potential go-ahead run in scoring position in the sixth, eighth, ninth and 11th.
Say it with me: It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done.
The Braves tied things up in the fifth. We then didn’t see another offensive player touch home plate for eight more innings.
Fast forward to the bottom of the 13th, when Chad Tracy came up with runners at the corners and one out. His grounder to Dan Uggla was mishandled, and Uggla’s bobble, look of confusion and then second bobble will be replayed over and over again on highlight reels today. It was an awkward play by someone who seemingly had no clue of what he wanted to do with the ball - if he was ever able to get a hold of it.
But credit Kurt Suzuki, the Nationals runner on first base, for not going into autopilot and running down to second on the grounder. If he takes off on the ground ball, Uggla could easily tag him and toss to first for a double play, but by freezing, Suzuki forced Uggla to come get him to have any shot at turning two. With Tracy hustling down the line, that would’ve been nearly impossible after the Uggla bobble.
“It is a heads-up play,” Tracy said. “You know, you never practice those plays, it’s just one of those things that your instincts take over. (Suzuki) felt like that was the right thing to do at that time, and it was.”
As that play was unfolding, Edwin Jackson was throwing in the bullpen, getting loose for the 14th inning just 50-some hours after throwing seven innings and 103 pitches against the Mets.
When Davey Johnson approached Jackson at some point in extra innings and asked him if he’d be willing to get warm and pitch if needed, Jackson could have said no. Instead, he told his manager he’d give it a shot, and started throwing in the bullpen in preparation for what would have been his first relief outing of the season.
“I wasn’t doing it for heroism,” Jackson said. “The bullpen was done. It was a game that we could possibly win. It’s definitely a game where they don’t want to throw position players. It’s not a giveaway game. So I guess I was the next best option to legitimately have a chance to win.”
Many pitchers in that spot probably agree to lace up their spikes and start getting loose. But given that Jackson will be a free agent after this season and is lacking long-term job security, the fact that he put himself out there for the good of the team resonated with Zimmermann.
“It means a lot (for Jackson) to go to the bullpen and get warmed up. If we don’t score a run there at the end, he’s probably going in,” Zimmermann said. “I’d love to have him back next year. I don’t know what the Nationals’ plans are, but he’s a great teammate and a great pitcher.”
Even though every Nationals reliever pitched last night, Davey Johnson said he doesn’t feel a need to make a roster move to add another arm. Why not?
“I’m going to go nine (innings) with Stras anyway,” Johnson quipped.
Johnson knows full well Stephen Strasburg hasn’t even pitched into the eighth inning once this season. I’d say the chances of him going nine tonight are about as great as the Nats and Braves playing a nice, quiet game free of extra innings or high drama.