PHILADELPHIA - I'm really trying not to beat the comeback angle into the ground, but the Nationals just keep overtaking late deficits late in games, forcing me to write about it.
Nine comeback wins in 29 games played this season. Pretty amazing.
Last night, the Nats chipped away against one of the top starters in the league in Cliff Lee and then again came from behind late, scoring three runs in the eighth inning off Phillies relievers.
Nats hitters are now batting a collective .282 with a .827 OPS in the seventh inning or later this season. The batting average is tops in the majors. The OPS is the best mark in the bigs - by a whopping 99 points.
The Nationals have been terrorizing opposing relievers, doing the bulk of their damage in the late innings against pitchers firing mid-to-upper 90s fastballs with nasty offspeed stuff.
Even in subpar bullpens, late-inning relievers are there for a reason. They miss bats, they're tough to square up and they are expected to close down games. Against the Nats, however, these pitchers are having major issues, giving Nats hitters confidence they can come back from nearly any deficit.
"I think now nobody worries about it. It is what it is," Adam LaRoche said. "We got nine innings here to put to some runs up. More than likely, we're going to get something going. That's kind of that attitude now. No panic. We don't have to turn around and score three runs right now. Keep being patient. Put up good at-bats, and we'll have a big inning."
Speaking of LaRoche, he continues to battle a sore quad muscle, an injury that again led to him being removed from the game last night. He came out in the eighth after driving in the go-ahead run and said after the game that the quad was barking pretty good.
"Not good. It hurts," LaRoche said. "But it's been this way for a few days. Live with it. Keep going like we did today. If there's a situation, I need to come out late. We'll do that until it gets healed."
LaRoche was asked what the chances of him playing today are.
"I'm playing," he said simply.
Tyler Moore homered off Lee last night and now finds himself 6-for-12 with two homers and three doubles against him in his career.
What's the deal with Moore crushing Lee when seemingly every other hitter on earth has trouble with the Phillies left-hander?
"I don't know, man," Moore said with a smile last night. "He's a good pitcher. He's got really good stuff. I don't know. I guess lucky, barrel some balls up against him. I'm just glad I was in the lineup tonight and got to play."
It got overlooked last night by nearly everyone in the ballpark, but umpires issued warnings to both teams after the Denard Span/Cliff Lee incident that led to the benches clearing in the fifth inning.
Multiple Nats relievers told me after the game that they were warned by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds when they entered the game.
Span wasn't thrilled with Lee quick-pitching him up and in last night, and Carlos Ruiz got the attention of some in the Nats dugout when he barreled into Ian Desmond at second base in the ninth inning, instead of sliding.
Eighteen more games between these two teams remain this season.