García, Winker, Rosario lead Nats to another comeback win (updated)

The season is not yet one-quarter complete, and there’s far too much time left to know exactly how this is going to play out. But if you’re looking for consistent themes out of the 2024 Nationals, you might be best-served remembering the term Davey Martinez used to describe his team one week ago after it pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in club history: "Relentless."

These Nationals have their flaws, no doubt. The roster has holes, especially the lineup. The pitching can be erratic. The defense has been downright ugly the last two days.

But here at the end of the first week of May, they once again reached the .500 mark, thanks to another impressive come-from-behind victory, this one by the absurd score of 11-8 over the Blue Jays.

A game that started 1 hour, 25 minutes late due to rain, then saw the Nats dig themselves into a 6-1 hole in the third inning, somehow ended with high-fives and handshakes at the center of the diamond, thanks to a relentless offensive attack that included four hits (including a homer) from Luis García Jr., a go-ahead three-run homer from Jesse Winker and then a go-ahead two-run homer from Eddie Rosario to cap off a wild afternoon on South Capitol Street.

"It's been cool, man. It's really cool to see," said Winker, part of a club that now has a major league-leading 12 come-from-behind wins. "I'm going to use this word: It's inspiring to watch. It gives you energy."

García and Winker provided the early fireworks to make up the early deficit, but it was Rosario’s unexpected blast in the seventh that ultimately was needed to pull off this win.

The game knotted at 8-8, Rosario stepped to the plate with a runner on third and two out, the sting of an 0-for-31 slump still fresh in his mind even after he snapped it with an infield single Saturday. The veteran outfielder can push that bad memory even further into the recesses of his mind now after he drilled a 1-0 splitter from Toronto reliever Erik Swanson into the right field bleachers, easily his biggest hit of a monstrously disappointing season to date.

"You know, I needed it, as you can see based on the start I've had," Rosario said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. "I'm one of those players that looks forward to those big moments, and I've had some big moments in my career with big home runs. But how we started, I needed it. It's definitely a confidence boost, knowing I can still be that player."

"It was an unreal swing," Winker said. "It's against a good reliever. And he crushed it. It was so cool to see. Anytime you can watch your teammates have success on the field like that, it's so inspiring. That was cool to see."

With a lead in hand, the back end of the Nationals bullpen was able to finish this one off, Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan combining to record the final seven outs of a win that required six innings out of six relievers after MacKenzie Gore’s rough start.

Gore took the loss in each of his last three starts, a product far more of a lack of run support from his teammates (five total runs) than his own performance (six total runs). Wouldn’t you know today’s game would see the script get flipped, with Gore getting roughed up but his teammates bailing him out.

Gore wound up surrendering six runs in only three innings, four of those scoring on one massive blast by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Shaky defense didn’t help, from a high and wide throw by catcher Keibert Ruiz on a stolen base attempt to an aborted attempt by Rosario to make a play on a sinking liner to right.

The costliest defense gaffe, though, came from Gore himself. With runners on the corners and one out in the second, he appeared to corral Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s softy hit comebacker and had a play at the plate. Except he dropped the ball, leaving him with only a play at first base. Except he dropped the ball again, leaving everybody safe.

Two batters later, Gore put a waist-high changeup on a platter for Guerrero, who launched it to left for a killer grand slam, the low point of what became a 44-pitch inning.

Gore surrendered another run in the third, and Davey Martinez decided not to push his young lefty any farther, pulling him after 76 total pitches.

"I wasn't very good today," the lefty said. "The error was big. It was just a really bad error, and then I made a bad pitch with the bases loaded. I wasn't great today, but a heck of a win. We need to understand as a group, myself included, that the way we played this weekend isn't how you're going to win consistently. But it's about winning. It's not about how you win, but if you do it or not."

Down 6-1 in the third, the Nationals decided it was time to lock in and make up yet another significant early deficit. One week after coming back from a 7-0 hole in Miami, they pulled off another impressive comeback. And it all started with the guy who has suddenly become the team’s big producer and No. 3 hitter.

García already entered the day flying high, his batting average up to .309. He raised that number with a first-inning single. Then he took it to another level with a towering home run in the bottom of the third, his second of the series.

"It's obviously surprising; it's surprised me a lot," García, who ended the day batting .337 with an .891 OPS, said via Octavio Martinez. "But I think the one thing I'm learning the most during this streak is the fact to just stay focused and stay with the same level head. No matter what happens on the field, just keep staying focused out there."

A two-run single to center in the fourth added to García's big day and sustained the Nationals’ biggest rally of the day (though he did jam his wrist sliding into second base and wound up getting replaced by Ildemaro Vargas). And when Winker followed that with a no-doubt three-run homer off Alek Manoah, the comeback was complete.

Winker, who engaged in what appeared to be a playful stare down with Manoah after he was hit by a breaking ball in the foot the previous inning, didn’t need to look at the opposing pitcher this time. He stormed down the first base line, then paused to look back at his teammates in the dugout before enjoying the rest of his trip around the bases.

"Anytime you can help a team win, it's special," Winker said. "This is such a fun team to be a part of. It's such a great opportunity to be a National. So I'm thankful for sure."

It was 7-6, the home team on top, and it was only the fourth inning. With so much still to come, including García's fourth hit and fourth RBI, and a long-awaited blast from a veteran outfielder who picked a good time to finally break out of his slump.

"Like I've said before: They're relentless," Davey Martinez said. "They keep coming, keep coming. Today was a hitter's duel, basically. I'm glad we ended up on top."

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