CHICAGO - Chad Tracy joined MASN's Julie Alexandria for a walk-off interview on the field at Wrigley after today's 5-4, 13-inning win. Tracy's 50-foot swinging bunt RBI groundout ended up bringing in the game-winning run, so he was tabbed as the guy to get the questions on the field.
"I know he was on the after-game show as the hero. But we gotta do better than that!" manager Davey Johnson said with a laugh.
It was yet another wild win for the Nationals today, the second straight day where they blew a fairly comfortable lead only to eventually come back and snatch a win back from the Cubs. Tonight, Tracy's slow roller with one out plated Denard Span, who had doubled leading off the top of the 13th and then moved to third on a sacrifice bunt.
It certainly wasn't how the Nats drew it up, and it's not often a swinging bunt makes you the hero, but at that point, Tracy and the Nats would gladly take it.
"That gave me a heart attack," Johnson said. "Good thing we got a track star running on third base. A win is a win. We'll take it and make the flight.
It looked for a while like Stephen Strasburg would cruise to a complete game win, his second in his last three starts, but Strasburg got burned in the ninth, and ended up walking out of Wrigley Field with yet another tough no-decision.
He took a 4-1 lead into the ninth, but gave up a one-out single to put the tying run in the on-deck circle. The Nats were unable to turn a 4-6-3 double play that would have ended the game, getting just a force out at second, and then Anthony Rendon committed a throwing error that allowed Nate Schierholtz to score to make it 4-2.
Then, on a 1-1 pitch, Donnie Murphy lifted a Strasburg curveball just over the left field fence to tie the game. The homer brought Strasburg into a crouch behind the mound, seeing what had been a gem of an outing crumble in front of his eyes.
"I thought he pitched a great game," Johnson said. "Low pitch count. He was still throwing the ball very good. I wasn't going to let him lose it. That's why I had (Rafael) Soriano warming up. If the winning run came up, I was going to take him out. What a great effort. I know he was upset but he pitched one heck of a ball game.
"Usually in that situation he goes with his fastball and just locates it. It's over. But he's got a lot left in the tank. I think the first pitch was 96 miles an hour on the black away. And if he just locates the fastball nobody is going to hit him in that part of the game. He threw a decent curveball but it was up and over the heart of the plate. If he bears it down, he gets by with it.
"(Murphy) has hit a couple breaking balls in the series. I know he hit a fastball up and away. You can't do that. That's just part of the learning curve. He's going to be awfully good. He is awfully good. He's only going to get better and learn from that."
It the past, Strasburg has let errors behind him affect his mental approach on the mound. Johnson didn't see that from his ace in the ninth today, despite the error behind him and the double-play-that-wasn't.
"Not really. He was really controlling his emotions and everything," Johnson said. "We didn't play really good. The ground ball in the hole. I got a third baseman/second baseman over there. A good throw, he's out and it's easy."
Johnson made a couple defensive changes in the seventh inning, putting David DeJesus in right field in place of Jayson Werth and bringing in Denard Span in to play center. Had Adam LaRoche been brought in for defense late in the game, as well, he might've been able to scoop Rendon's low throw that led to the error and extended the game. But Johnson said he didn't really consider bringing LaRoche in as a late defensive sub.
"When I don't start him, I want to give him the day off," Johnson said. "I have all the confidence in the world in Tyler. It's a good thing we had extra players. I was down to one injured shortstop on the bench and the game was over. Great win. Make the flight to Kansas City easy.
Things were made interesting yet again in the bottom of the 13th after the Nats had taken the lead when Steve Lombardozzi committed a throwing error to bring Dioner Navarro up representing the go-ahead run with just one out. Drew Storen got the job done, however, getting a 1-4-6-3 double play to end the game on what was a hot-shot line drive up the middle."
"Lombardozzi messed up the routine ground ball. And thank goodness Storen got a glove on the ball hit up the middle and the second baseman could out of there," Johnson said. "It was fun watching, but not in a humorous way."