Good friends Finnegan and Bourque keep Braves off board for win

Nationals relievers Kyle Finnegan and James Bourque managed to keep the prolific Braves offense off the board in extra innings in an 8-7, 12-inning win Friday night at Nats Park.

Finnegan pitched two scoreless frames while Bourque earned his first major league win with a shutout 12th as the Nats prevented the Braves from coming back from a 5-0 deficit to win for the second night in a row.

Thumbnail image for finnegan blue sidebar.jpgFinnegan walked the tightrope for two innings and managed to prevent the Braves from scoring a run even though they had a runner at third base with fewer than two outs each time.

In the 10th inning, with the mandatory runner starting at second base and the game tied 7-7, Finnegan forced Austin Riley to fly out to deep right field. The designated runner, Dansby Swanson, tagged and went to third base. Then Finnegan got Adam Duvall to ground out to Trea Turner at shortstop for the second out. With a runner still in scoring position, Finnegan struck out Nick Markakis looking on a 96 mph sinker.

In the 11th, Finnegan got in some more hot water, but again found a way to record three huge outs. With Markakis at second base with the game still even, Ozzie Albies singled on a soft bunt, moving Markakis to third. Albies then stole second base.

Finnegan was able to strike out Ender Inciarte on a foul tip with a 95 mph sinker. The Nats then elected to walk the dangerous Freddie Freeman intentionally to load the bases with one out.

Even with three men on behind him, Finnegan was not afraid of what was next.

"It's kind of a refreshing mindset at that point, honestly, because it's 'Don't let them score. Do whatever you can to keep the guy from touching home plate,'" Finnegan said. "I'm thinking ground balls, I'm thinking strikeouts, shallow fly ball, infield fly out. Strike one is huge there. Get them defensive, get them out of their plan and try and be nasty right there."

Finnegan went to work and got Marcell Ozuna to fly out to right field and Travis d'Arnaud to ground out to second base to end the half inning. Ozuna came into that at-bat with five hits in the game, including a double, a homer, a walk and four RBIs.

"He was phenomenal," manager Davey Martinez said of Finnegan. "He's been really good all year. That's something funny, because when we had spring training 2.0, it's something we worked on with him in these situations with a guy at second base. He knew what he wanted to do. He went out there and competed and got big outs for us."

Finnegan did not panic with the bases loaded against the red-hot Ozuna. He even had to face d'Arnaud, who had supplied the RBI single that had tied the game in the ninth.

"I think it's trying to just stay simple there," Finnegan said. "Execute one pitch at a time. I'm sure you guys have heard that a million times. You hear that because it's the truth. You can't be thinking about everything at once. You got to funnel it down to one simple thing and that's execute the next pitch. That's all you can control right there. That's really all I've been thinking about."

In the 12th, Bourque arrived. Manager Davey Martinez went to Bourque because Tanner Rainey was unavailable after pitching three of the last four days.

Bourque had to begin the frame with d'Arnaud at second base. He walked Dansby Swanson. After recording a fly out for the first out, Bourque then walked Duvall, and the bases were loaded. Markakis stepped in and Bourque got him to ground out sharply to Turner, who was able to turn the 6-3 double play to end the top of the 12th.

"Kudos to Bourque, too. Went out there and got a groundball double play and got us to that next half inning," Martinez said. "Proud of both those guys. They're going to pitch. Kyle McGowin came in and got big outs for us today as well. They are going to be put in big situations and we will see what they do."

Bourque's huge pitch to get the double play set the stage for Michael A. Taylor's heroics in the bottom of the 12th and the first walk-off win for the Nats this season.

"That kind of exemplified that game right there," Finnegan said. "Runners on base, backs against the wall and one huge pitch right there, changes the game for us. We are so happy for Bourque getting his first win. Super pumped for that guy, one of my good buddies down there in the 'pen."

These last two shutout appearances have been important to Finnegan, because he had recently hit his first rough patch of the season.

"I have been really proud of myself lately, because I haven't had the greatest stretch here lately," Finnegan said. "I've gotten hit around a little bit in some of my previous outings. And to be able to bounce back and put together back-to-back scoreless outings and going two (innings) tonight to help us get the win.

"I'm just happy I have been able to kind of endure the grind of a major league season so far, albeit a shortened season, but it's grind nonetheless. Trying to be able to be a guy that can take the ball every day. That's what I've been working on."

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