Earlier this week, Drew Storen noted that to win a pennant, you need to not only win the games where things go smoothly, you need to win the ugly games, too.
This one would certainly qualify in the latter category. But it sure was fun to watch nonetheless.
The Nationals made two errors in the sixth inning, allowing two Pirates runs to score. Rafael Soriano blew a save in the top of the ninth, surrendering three runs to turn a 4-2 lead into a 5-4 Pittsburgh advantage.
The ugly aspects could be found on the Pirates’ side, as well. They also made two errors, allowing the Nats to take the lead in the seventh. Mark Melancon blew a save in the bottom of the ninth, with the Nats forcing extra innings after Asdrubal Cabrera drove in Jayson Werth with the game-tying run.
In the end, the Nats overcame the sloppy aspects and earned a hard-fought 6-5 win in an incredibly entertaining ballgame that gave Washington a sweep in this three-game set.
Werth led off the bottom of the 11th with a double off the left field wall, Denard Span moved him to third with a groundball to the right side, and Scott Hairston delivered a first-pitch, pinch-hit sac fly to score the winning run. It was the Nats’ sixth walk-off win of the year and second in as many days.
Here’s Matt Williams after the game:
On how he’d describe the ballgame: “Wasn’t the prettiest one, but it doesn’t have to be. Guys fought hard.”
On what he liked about the comeback mentality tonight: “Just that they don’t quit, they don’t quit fighting. We’ve got a lot of tenacity in there, so that’s a good sign, very good sign. We’ve been in that situation this year, so it’s not something that’s new. It’s not where we want to be, but if you have to come back in a game, you have to come back.”
On Werth’s availability after being limited the last few days: “He was getting loose all game, so we kept monitoring him. Two-run lead, we’re not gonna use him if we don’t have to. But we had to. And it paid dividends, again.”
On the see-saw nature of the game: “Yeah, for a fan’s perspective, that’s a fun game. Lots to cheer about. Last-minute, last-inning comeback and winning the game on a walk-off hit. Those are all good things. Not a whole lot of fun in the dugout, but we’ll take it. We’re not giving that one back. ... Again, it’s not per the plan, but sometimes you have to do things. I think Denard’s at-bat in the last inning is the key at-bat. Ran it full and moved Jayson to third and set it up for us. I think, also, Doug keeping it to two in that inning is really important. That inning could’ve blown up, and he didn’t allow that. So that’s a key moment in the game, as well.”
On whether he considered bringing in Matt Thornton to face Gregory Polanco in the ninth: “(Not) unless they tie the game. So Sori’s got to try to get out of the inning. He’s been our closer all year and done a great job for us. Lately it hasn’t been what he wants but we’ve got to give him a chance to get out of that inning.”
On if Soriano was having command issues: “It’s just balls up in the strike zone over his last three or four, and over the middle of the plate. He hasn’t been able to command his slider either. The problem is with a bullpen guy, it’s difficult for him to work on it in the bullpen, because he’s going to be forced into action potentially the next day or that night. But he’s just been up in the strike zone.”
On if he’ll think about getting Soriano in lower-leverage situations going forward: “Potentially. He’s been our closer all year, and I don’t see that changing as of right now. He’s been up a lot recently, pitching a lot of games, and hopefully the games don’t present themselves like that and we can give him some rest and give him a chance to cool down a little bit and kick back. ... It’s just been a little off, that’s all.”
On having other options to close games: “Well, we’ve got guys that have done that. Drew’s done it, Clip’s done it, Matt Thornton’s done it. So that’s certainly the options that we have, depending on how he feels. But that’s a pretty heavy workload over the last five, so we’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
On Soriano getting booed coming off: “Our fans are very supportive of all of us. It’s disappointing when you have a lead in the ninth and you don’t close the game out, but the next time he goes out there and goes 1-2-3, they’ll cheer for him, too. So that’s OK.”