The last two times the Nationals have handed their bullpen a lead in the late innings, that lead has disappeared and extra innings have been needed.
Gio Gonzalez has given everything he had today, throwing 116 pitches over 7 1/3 scoreless innings, and now he’ll hope the Nats bullpen can lock down a win.
It’s 1-0 Nats, with Bryce Harper’s solo homer in the sixth still the only run on the board.
The Nats had a golden chance to tack on an insurance run or two in the top of the eighth, but Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche failed to capitalize with a runner in scoring position and it’s still a one-run game.
Gonzalez allowed just four hits and two walks today, and just four Giants reached base off the left-hander after the first inning. He struck out five and makes this his fourth straight start surrendering two earned runs or fewer.
He’ll now turn things over to Drew Storen with one out and a runner at first in the eighth, and if all goes well, Rafael Soriano will be called upon in the ninth.
Soriano has blown his last two save opportunities and would love nothing more than to get a chance to put last night’s frustrating outing behind him.
First, it’ll be up to Storen to get the Nats out of this jam with the heart of the Giants order coming up.
Update: The Nationals have now blown eight saves in 21 chances this season.
Storen walked Marco Scutaro, the first batter he saw, and then gave up an RBI single to Buster Posey that knotted the game. Just like that, it’s a tie ballgame 1-1.
The run goes on Gonzalez’s line, but Storen is credited with the blown save. It could’ve been worse for Storen and the Nats, as Bryce Harper robbed Hunter Pence of what would’ve surely been an RBI hit with a sliding grab in right and then Adam LaRoche made a stellar diving grab and throw to second to get a force to end the inning.
Storen failed to cover first base on the play, but LaRoche had the presence of mind to gun a throw to second from his knees to cut down Posey and keep the game tied.
Yet again, the Nats don’t add on runs after getting a lead and yet again their bullpen fails to do the job. It’s 1-1 after eight.
Update II: A powerhouse ninth inning from Tyler Clippard moves this game into extra innings, as we’re still tied 1-1.
Clippard struck out Joaquin Arias and Andres Torres and got Brandon Crawford to fly out to right to end the ninth, and for the second straight day, the Nats and Giants will play extra innings.
Update III: The Nats got the big hit they needed in the top of the 10th, as Desmond smacked a single through the hole on the right side, scoring Harper from second to give the Nats a 2-1 lead.
Harper had doubled to right with one out, and after the Giants chose to intentional walk Ryan Zimmerman, Desmond came through with a monster RBI single, and the Nats are back on top.
Two more runners were then left in scoring position when Roger Bernadina struck out to end the inning, but Soriano will now have a shot to close this game out in the bottom of the 10th.
Update IV: That’s about as big as a win can be in May.
Instead of dropping their fifth straight and flying back from the West Coast having gone just 3-7 on their 10-game road trip, the Nationals scratched out a hard-fought 2-1 win and move back above .500 on the season at 24-23.
Soriano picks up his 13th save with a perfect 10th, Clippard notches his third win of the season and the Nats will be all smiles on their plane ride back east.
It was a rocky road trip, for sure, and there are still a lot of issues with this team right now. But this is the type of win that can flip momentum in a hurry.