More of the same (Desmond’s grand slam lifts Nats to 11-inning win)

PHILADELPHIA - Kyle Kendrick has faced 16 Nationals hitters tonight.

One of those 16 has reached base. The other 15 have all gone quietly.

The Nats trail the Phillies 2-0 as we go to the sixth inning of tonight’s series finale at Citizens Bank Park. They’ve put one runner on base so far and have made things pretty easy on Kendrick, who has needed just 56 pitches.

Davey Johnson wants his hitters to be aggressive. They have been. They just continue to have problems getting guys on base and putting runs up on the board.

The Nats might only trail by two runs, but it feels like a heck of a lot more than that.

Since allowing a two-run homer with nobody out in the first inning, Gio Gonzalez has faced the minimum. He’s struck out seven over five innings and has allowed just two hits.

That two-run homer, however, sure looms large when your offense can’t score.

Gonzalez has set down 14 of the last 15 hitters he’s faced. But this looks just like any one of his other starts over the last five weeks.

In Gonzalez’s last seven outings coming into tonight, he’d allowed a total of 11 runs and hadn’t picked up a single win in that span.

Again, more of the same.

Update: After six innings of complete ineffectiveness, the Nats finally pushed a run across in the top of the seventh to make it a 2-1 game.

After Ryan Zimmerman walked with one out and then moved to second on Adam LaRoche’s tapper back to the pitcher, Jayson Werth delivered a two-out single to right that scored Zimmerman with the Nats’ first run of the night.

Baserunners are nice. Situational hitting is also nice.

The Nats now have two hits off Kendrick and have cut the Phillies’ lead in half. Baby steps.

Update II: Gonzalez delivered what might have been his best outing of the season, and he’s still in line for the loss.

The left-hander allowed two runs, two hits and two walks over seven fantastic innings. He struck out a season-high 11 batters and threw 108 pitches, 65 for strikes.

It was a tremendous effort after a rough start, but it might result in Gonzalez’s fourth loss of the season.

The Nats went down in order in the eighth, leaving them three offensive outs from a sweep at the hands of the Phillies.

Update III: Does that count as eating face?

Jayson Werth came through with a monster RBI single to left with two outs in the top of the ninth, bringing in Denard Span with the game-tying run. It’s a 2-2 game as we go to the bottom of the ninth.

The Nats have handed Jonathan Papelbon two blown saves in three days, but they missed a chance to take the lead, when Ian Desmond struck out to end the ninth and leave Adam LaRoche at third.

Tyler Clippard will stay in the game for the bottom of the ninth, trying to get this thing to extra-innings.

Update IV: Clippard and Ian Krol combined to work a clean ninth, with Krol getting Domonic Brown to line out softly to short to leave the game-winning run at second and take us to extra innings.

It’s a 2-2 game going to the 10th.

Update V: We go to the 11th after the Nationals wasted one heck of a chance in the top of the 10th.

Kurt Suzuki doubled with one out and then advanced to third on a wild pitch. All the Nats needed was a fly ball, a hard-hit grounder to the right spot, another wild pitch, and they would’ve taken a 3-2 lead.

Instead, Jeff Kobernus grounded out weakly to second and Span popped out to third.

Opportunity wasted. And they keep playing.

Update VI: After going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his first four at-bats of the night, Ian Desmond came through with what might be the biggest hit of the Nats’ season to this point.

Desmond came up with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the 11th, and after taking a very close 1-2 pitch that easily could’ve been called strike three, Desmond jacked a hanging slider out to left for his first career grand slam and the Nats’ first granny of the season.

Just like that, the Nats are up 6-2. What an uplifting win this would be.

Update VII: And that’s it. The Nats avoid the sweep and pick up a monster win over the Phillies by a 6-2 count.

Desmond is the star of the game, but credit the Nats’ pitching, as well. After Michael Young’s two-run homer in the first, the Nats didn’t allow a run and surrendered just two hits the rest of the night.

They get back to a game under .500 and retake second place in the NL East, seven games behind the Braves.

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