It was nearly one of the most thrilling, electrifying wins of the season, and if it had come to fruition, it would have clinched the Nationals a playoff spot in dramatic fashion.
Down six, with six outs to go and three of their key hitters out of the game, the Nationals went on the comeback trail, bringing 12 men to the plate in one inning, tying the game and sending Nats Park into a frenzy.
“It was an awesome inning to be a part of,” said Michael Morse, who had a home run and a two-run, game-tying single in that one inning alone. “That was one of the coolest innings I’ve been a part of on this team.”
The script was almost perfect. The Nats nearly pulled it off and got to celebrate the district’s first postseason-bound baseball team since 1933 on a crisp September night after battling all the way back. But just like that, just minutes after they’d scratched and clawed their way back into a 6-6 tie, the baseball gods turned the other way.
“That shows you baseball right there,” Morse said. “Anything can happen. They were down in the dumps because of that inning, and next thing you know, (Matt) Kemp hits a homer. It goes back on their side. It was a good, hard-fought ballgame until the end. You could say we gave up, but we didn’t.”
The most surprising part of the whole sequence, in my mind, was relayed by catcher Jesus Flores, who said that he overheard Porter telling another ump that he thought the bases were loaded on the play in question. That explains why Porter wasn’t looking at Kemp touching home plate in relation to Ryan Zimmerman’s tag of Adrian Gonzalez. Would’ve been nice to hear Porter own up to that after the game, but the umpires declined comment on the topic.
The Kemp run loomed large and upset manager Davey Johnson and a number of Nats players, but some were also quick to mention that the Nats had other chances to get back in the game and then put it away. They didn’t lose entirely because of the blown call, although Porter’s miscue certainly didn’t help matters.
One light moment in a quiet Nats clubhouse last night came from Morse, who was asked if he was thinking about how the Nats could have clinched a playoff spot had they completed the dramatic comeback. The left fielder responded with a confused look.
“No clue,” he said, breaking into a smile. “Didn’t know that. I learn stuff from you guys every day.”
Michael Morse, ladies and gentlemen.
Tyler Clippard, who gave up the Kemp game-winning homer four pitches into the ninth, has now pitched to a 8.10 ERA and allowed a .367 batting average over his last seven appearances. He’s been exceptional for much of the season, and is allowed a little blip, but is it time to think about going to Drew Storen more often in the ninth inning?
The good news coming out of yesterday’s doubleheader is that Morse, Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa all seemed to make it out OK after dealing with various injuries recently.
Espinosa said he felt “pretty close” to full strength yesterday after having a cortisone shot in his ailing left shoulder. He was able to get his bat speed back and felt he had the pop back in his bat. Zimmerman said his right shoulder felt good after getting a cortisone shot of his own before the game. Morse seemed to still feel his injured left wrist a bit, but he said his homer in the eighth is an indication that he’s feeling better.
“(The wrist) was a little stiff at the beginning,” he said. “I’m glad I played the second game. Just to keep playing, get some at-bats. It’s better. It’s better than what it was, so it’s good.”
The Nats will have another shot to clinch a playoff spot again tonight. At least this time, Morse will know it’s coming.