What a weird game baseball can be.
Tuesday night, the Nationals dropped their second straight ballgame to the Angels, this one by a 7-2 score. They were back to just one game over .500 through the season’s first three weeks and were a win away from being swept.
The defense wasn’t pretty and hits with runners in scoring position had been largely absent on the homestand.
Then, last night the Nats saw the Angels grab control of the game in the late innings. The Nats offense went quiet. Gio Gonzalez went from pitching a gem to being on the verge of getting stuck with the loss. The sweep at the hands of the Angels was looking likely.
But then the Nats came alive, as they tend to do late in games this season.
Jose Lobaton picked a great time for his first homer as a National, leading off the bottom of the ninth, cutting the deficit to two and reviving the dugout with a solo blast on an 0-2 pitch.
“I feel like the Lobaton at-bat was just the spark we needed,” Jayson Werth said.
Denard Span then reached on a single up the middle on a 1-2 pitch. Anthony Rendon grinded out a walk in a seven-pitch at-bat. All that set the table for Werth’s line shot of a double that tied the game and LaRoche’s game-winner on the first pitch he saw from Fernando Salas.
So much for the sweep. So much for another disappointing loss. So much for questions about what hasn’t clicked with this team so far.
Instead, we got a mob scene on the infield after LaRoche’s walk-off. We got a Gatorade bath for Werth. We got a happy clubhouse.
How quickly things can turn.
“Last night, we’re sitting here talking about how bad we are. Tonight it’s a different story,” Werth said. “Crazy game.”
It might have surprised a lot of people to see Werth swinging 3-0 in the spot that he did given that Angels closer Ernesto Frieri was all over the place and a walk would put the winning run on base. But Werth seems to know what he’s doing in those spots.
In his career, Werth is now 11-for-16 (.688) when he puts the ball in play on a 3-0 count. In those situations, he has three homers, a double and 14 RBIs.
Matt Williams gave Werth the green light and turned him loose if he got a pitch he liked.
“When I played for Charlie Manuel, he always talked about, ‘Aim for the foul pole’ (in 3-0 counts),” Werth said. “I was just aiming for the foul pole. It worked out.
“I think it’s probably just how you feel. Some guys are comfortable swinging 3-0, some guys aren’t. Sometimes, even if you feel comfortable swinging 3-0, you don’t really feel it. But I felt it and I went for it.”
It worked. And for a night, the Nats’ confidence returned.
“It wasn’t the sweep we were worried about, it was trying to build our confidence,” Gonzalez said. “Getting back out there and trying to be competitive. We’re a great team and we’ve just got to keep believing in it. And I think we showed it today.”