It's been almost 12 hours since Wilson Ramos hit his walk-off homer to beat the Mariners last night, but this was one of those games that left people buzzing long after it was over. And for the Nationals, it did something important on a practical level: It stopped a losing streak before it got started.
Last year, the Nationals were still at .500 on June 1, when their season got flooded by one losing streak after the next. They had three stretches of three or more losses by the end of the month, and eight more from July to October. If good teams excel at damage control, the Nationals proved they weren't any good because they couldn't do it.
They've already had seven stretches of at least three straight losses this year, but only one of those has lasted longer than three games. And with their eight-game win streak, they were able to make up the ground they couldn't get hot enough to regain last year.
"Obviously, starting a series, you want to get out ahead," outfielder Jayson Werth said. "All things considered, you've got to be pretty excited about what went on today."
Here are the awards from last night:
Ramos: This is an obvious one - the catcher came up in the ninth inning with a chance to win the game and only a brief crash course on what right-hander David Pauley - the Mariners' second reliever of the inning after Michael Morse had hit a liner off Brandon League's leg - liked to throw. Hitting coach Rick Eckstein told him that against right-handers, Pauley's second-best pitch was a changeup. After two straight sinkers, he was expecting one with a 1-1 count, and he crushed it. "I was waiting for that pitch," Ramos said.
Nationals' bullpen: The Nationals thought they were asking for five innings of mop-up work from Collin Balester, Ryan Mattheus and Todd Coffey after Livan Hernandez was bounced from the game after four innings. Instead, five shutout innings from the bullpen became the only thing that kept the Mariners from pulling away. "You've got to be able to do that," manager Jim Riggleman said. "In today's world, you can have no soft spots in your bullpen. Everybody's got to hold up their end of it, and our guys did tonight."
Jerry Hairston Jr.: After Laynce Nix came out of the game with a sore right Achilles tendon, Hairston relieved him for two innings in left, and got a big hit in the ninth inning, bouncing a full-count sinker back up the middle to score the Nationals' first run of the inning with two outs.
Hernandez: He threw a three-hit shutout last time he pitched, but Hernandez had given up more hits than that by the second inning on Tuesday. He allowed 10 hits in all, and even though only one went for extra bases, the Mariners still chased him out of the game in four-plus innings, his shortest start of the year. "The cutter was no good," Hernandez said. "I threw the cutter over the top, and I'm not supposed to throw a cutter over the top. It won't do nothing. Every cutter I threw, I threw it hanging."
Ryan Zimmerman: The Nationals were down to their last out in the ninth inning after the third baseman grounded into his third double play of the night, getting out in front of a slider and beating it into the ground. He was robbed of a hit in the sixth when Dustin Ackley took away a hit and started the double play, leading Zimmerman to slam his batting helmet as the inning ended without the Nationals scoring a run.
In Case You Missed It:
* As bad a night as each one of them had, Zimmerman and Hernandez teamed up for a heads-up double play in the first inning. Carlos Peguero hit a pop-up into foul territory behind third base, and Justin Smoak retreated to third to tag up. Hernandez knew neither Smoak nor third base coach Jeff Datz would be watching him, so he slipped behind Smoak, saying nothing to Zimmerman so as not to draw attention to himself. When Smoak faked toward home, Zimmerman whipped a strong overhanded throw to third, and Hernandez tagged him out. "He's a good athlete," Hernandez said. "That play is heads up. He threw a bullet."
* The players in the Nationals' clubhouse - Balester, Mattheus, Hernandez, Nix and John Lannan - were sitting on couches, watching the end of the game on TV on a delayed MASN feed when they heard a shout from the next room, where team staffers were watching the game on a real-time feed. "Lannan yelled, ' Something happened!'" Mattheus said. "We saw a couple seconds later what it was." The players tried to run back down the tunnel to the dugout to join the celebration, but they couldn't make it in time, so they had their own celebration in the clubhouse. "We were sitting here, and we were going crazy," Hernandez said. "That was a great game. Baseball is 27 outs. Not too many people believe that, but it's 27 outs."
* The final two runs the Nationals scored in the ninth inning are earned by Pauley, but unearned by the Mariners, according to MLB rule 10.16(i). Had Smoak not made an error on Werth's ground ball to start the inning, the game would have ended on Zimmerman's double play. But as it kept going, Pauley gave up hits to Espinosa and Ramos, allowing those runners to score, so the runs are charged to him, even as they're unearned by the team. Thanks to @davewordnerd on Twitter for the find.
* Nix, who won't play on Wednesday, said he's taken days off two or three other times this year to rest his Achilles. He expects to be back on Thursday, and said he'll have to take a day every once in a while to rest it if he wants to avoid DL time.
1. Where does this rank among your favorite Nationals' wins this season? Other candidates would include the walk-off win over the Cardinals and Padres, blowout wins over the Phillies or Orioles, and shutouts by Hernandez or Jason Marquis.
2. The Nationals' starting pitchers have given up 46 hits in their last five games. Does it concern you that some of their luck on batted balls is going away from a rotation that doesn't strike out many batters, or are you too excited about the win to be worried right now?
Leave your answers in the comments section. I'll have more later today.