There were some positives in last night’s ballgame that the Nationals pointed to in the late hours of Friday night after their 13 innings with the Braves were through.
They had come back to tie the game in the ninth inning against Craig Kimbrel, arguably the top closer in the majors, a guy who has a 1.25 ERA and 113 saves since the start of the 2012 season.
Anthony Rendon’s two-out, two-run homer off Kimbrel knotted things up at 4-4 in the ninth and gave the Nats life.
“We came back against one of the best closers in the game to tie the game,” manager Matt Williams said. “... Proud of them for fighting back, staying in it and giving ourselves an opportunity. (Kimbrel) doesn’t give up many homers.”
“Especially the timing of it, coming against this team that we’ve had so much trouble with,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said of the homer. “You go from realistically knowing there in the ninth it’s going to be tough to get this one, with the best closer in the game on the mound. And you tie it up, it’s a pretty good feeling after that that we’re going to win it.”
The Nats got six scoreless innings from their bullpen from the seventh through the 12th, with Drew Storen, Craig Stammen, Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Jerry Blevins combining to allow just one hit, walk none and strike out seven over that six-inning span.
At one point, Nats relievers retired 18 straight Braves hitters.
“They really came in and they picked up the slack great,” starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg said.
The Nats drew six walks. They didn’t commit an error (although Danny Espinosa would probably tell you that he should’ve turned that double play in the 13th, a play that resulted in just one out and allowed a run to score).
There were some positives, and the Nats had a chance to win a big ballgame in dramatic fashion, halt the Braves’ momentum in this rivalry and remain atop the division.
Unfortunately for the guys in the home clubhouse, they were left with another tough loss, their seventh in eight games against the Braves this season and 20th in 27 games against Atlanta since the start of the 2013 campaign.
The Nationals continue to wait for things to turn when facing their top division rivals. They wait for the complete performances that they put together over the last couple of weeks, in wins over the Phillies, Padres, Giants and Astros. They wait for the positives that they saw last night to result in wins over Atlanta.
Those positives, even when present against the Braves, however, still aren’t leading to the desired result. The Nats plated two runs against an incredibly tough closer, got tremendous work from their bullpen until Blevins allowed two runs in the 13th (his second inning of work) and played a pretty crisp game defensively.
Still, though, they came out on the losing end, and go into these two weekend matchups hoping to emerge from this series with a split.