Nats storm back again, this time hold on to win (updated)

PHOENIX – The way it happened Saturday night, with a five-run rally in the top of the ninth wiped out by disaster in the bottom of the ninth, it felt like a soul-crushing development for the Nationals. The kind of loss that sits with a team for days.

That does not, however, appear to be the character of this particular team. Because when presented with an opportunity to do the exact same thing this afternoon at Chase Field, the Nationals once again stormed back, getting a titanic, three-run homer from Joey Meneses in the top of the ninth to take the lead.

And this time, they turned to Hunter Harvey to close out a scintillating, 9-8 victory over the Diamondbacks.

"These guys have got a bunch of heart," manager Davey Martinez said. "They're playing together. They feel like they're never out of it, and today's another good example. They fought back and put up some big numbers again."

Taking over for Kyle Finnegan as closer, at least for the day, Harvey pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth to secure the win and the long-awaited first save of his injury-plagued career.

"I'm still kind of on Cloud Nine," said Harvey, who joins his father, Bryan, as only the ninth father-son combo in history to record a save in the major leagues. "I'm really just trying to get back to doing what I've been doing and not let the moment get too big and just throw strikes."

Harvey found himself in that position thanks to the two runs his teammates scored in the top of the seventh, the one run they scored in the top of the eighth and the three runs they scored in the top of the ninth. Those last three all scored on one huge swing from Meneses, who blasted a slider from Arizona right-hander Miguel Castro deep to left for his biggest home run of what to date has been a disappointing season.

"First and foremost, I think it gives me confidence," Meneses, who entered with just one homer and 10 RBIs this season, said via interpreter Octavio Martinez. "It seems like unfortunately I haven't had the big hits like I did last season come through. But just keep working, keep battling, and hopefully my confidence keeps going."

It was Meneses' biggest hit of the season, but it wasn't his biggest hit in this ballpark. Less than two months removed from his memorable World Baseball Classic performance for Mexico here in Phoenix, Meneses put on a power display for his major league team, making the longest game of the season - 3 hours, 18 minutes - worth it.

"Ever since the Classic, I've had very good at-bats here," Meneses said. "Obviously, I have very good memories of this ballpark, especially after today's big home run."

This was not, to be sure, a particularly clean game by the Nationals. And it also ended with the confirmation from Martinez that center fielder Victor Robles will be placed on the 10-day injured list with back spasms, with utilityman Jake Alu set to join the team Monday in San Francisco in hopes of making his major league debut.

The Nats were three outs from getting swept because of the three home runs they surrendered and the 11 walks they issued. The quartet of Trevor Williams, Andrés Machado, Hobie Harris and Thaddeus Ward combined to issue the first 10 free passes. Harvey added the 11th, leaving them two shy of the club record of 13, though that was set over 12 innings in Milwaukee in 2008.

"We've got to start pitching a little better again," Martinez said. "We were pitching really good. The walks are killing us. We've got to start throwing strikes again and giving ourselves a chance, and not making these games so interesting."

When they weren’t walking members of the Diamondbacks lineup, the Nationals were giving up homers. Three of them today, to be precise, including two more by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., whose ninth-inning blast off Finnegan keyed Saturday night’s wild finish.

Five days removed from his best start of the season – 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the Cubs – Williams found himself in constant trouble today. He enjoyed only one clean inning, and the leadoff batter reached in three of his five frames.

Even worse, two of those three leadoff hitters to reach actually circled the bases without needing to stop anywhere along the way. Gurriel opened the bottom of the second with a 414-foot blast to left. Christian Walker opened the bottom of the fourth with a 380-foot blast to left.

"I wish I went a little deeper, and I wanted to be the stopper today," Williams said. "It wasn't the start we were looking for, but thankfully this offense has been picking us up and picking me up."

When he wasn’t watching Diamondbacks cross the plate via homers, Williams was watching them do it via balk. Yes, with runners on second and third and one out in the fourth, the right-hander appeared to begin to come set on the mound but didn’t get all the way there. Plate umpire Roberto Ortiz immediately threw his hands up and pointed, directing the runner on third (Gurriel) to score a free run.

Williams, to be sure, was not sharp during his 4 1/3 labored innings. But he also didn’t benefit much from his defense, which concluded a sloppy weekend with another less-than-perfect game. The most notable mistake: Lane Thomas once again struggled to corral a ball hit over his head in deep right field, turning Ketel Marte’s drive into an RBI triple.

Martinez would pull his starter shortly after that, entrusting Machado to finish out the fifth with the Nationals by only one run. Alas, he fell victim to the same problem that took down Williams earlier today and Finnegan the previous night: Gurriel.

The dynamic left fielder launched yet another home run, this one a three-run blast off Machado to extend the Diamondbacks’ lead to 7-3.

It seemed like that would be that, and the Nationals wouldn't have a second-straight late rally in them. Except they did, showing the kind of resilience that can overcome all of their other faults.

"To see what we did last night, to come back out there and do that again, it just shows the type of team we are," Williams said. "We're scrappy. It's something that I'm proud to be a part of."

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