Nats take advantage of Tigers' miscues to win in 10 (updated)

DETROIT – The Nationals and Tigers swapped errors tonight, each team helping the other with two rapid-fire misplays in the field, all of them helping the other score key runs. Which ultimately left this game knotted up after nine innings and headed to extras, just waiting for someone to deliver – or fail – in the clutch.

In the end, the Nats did just enough to take advantage of Detroit’s miscues and walk away with a 5-4, 10-inning victory at Comerica Park, extending their winning streak to four games.

Thanks to a wild pitch on strike three, CJ Abrams managed to reach first and advance Jacob Young to third in the top of the 10th. And thanks to Lane Thomas’ sacrifice fly to right, Young was able to scamper home with the go-ahead run that made the victory possible.

"You've got to capitalize on everything," Abrams said.

The Nationals have now won four straight, improving to 31-35 on the season. They haven't enjoyed a five-game winning streak since June 2021.

"We don't really have an identity, which I think can be a good thing," closer Kyle Finnegan said. "There's lots of different ways we can beat you."

This win required a very different path than this team is used to following.

A game of wild swings saw the Nationals take a 3-0 lead, then saw Mitchell Parker give all three runs back – plus another – on one swing of the bat in the bottom of the fifth. The rookie starter, though, was let off the hook by his teammates when they rallied to tie the game in the eighth.

Taking advantage of two Detroit errors, Thomas reached second base on a single, then took third on a botched grounder to short. That put him in position to tag up and score on Ildemaro Vargas’ sacrifice fly to right, making this a 4-4 game as Davey Martinez handed it over to the back of his bullpen.

Hunter Harvey, who threw 11 pitches during a 1-2-3 eighth, got the opportunity to retake the mound for the ninth and got two quick outs. But a line drive single by Zach McKinstry kept the inning going, and when McKinstry stole second with ease, the Tigers suddenly had the winning run in scoring position.

A fast-fading Harvey walked Matt Vierling on his 32nd pitch, so Martinez made the move for Finnegan to try to escape the ninth and force extra innings. Which Finnegan did, striking out Colt Keith to strand the runner on second.

"Any time you come in for one of your guys, it means a little more," said Finnegan, who returned for the bottom of the 10th to secure the win. "You want to strand those runners out there. We had played a great game thus far, and I was just trying to keep it going."

The Nationals did lose Joey Gallo to .a left hamstring injury in the top of the seventh. Running out a grounder to second, Gallo grabbed his upper left leg as he reached first base and then walked gingerly back to the dugout. Joey Meneses took over for him in the field in the bottom of the inning, and the Nationals now must prepare for the possibility Gallo needs a stint on the injured list, requiring a roster move Wednesday.

"We're probably going to get somebody on the move," Martinez said. "I don't know yet. We'll just see what happens. But we'll definitely have someone on the move."

It was an exceptionally weird night for Parker, and not simply because of the manner in which he turned the bottom of the fifth into a disaster. His first four innings featured zero runs scored but a good amount of loud contact and only two swings-and-misses. Somehow, the rookie got through all of that unscathed, making some big pitches when he needed to and getting some help from his defense on multiple occasions.

But then came the fateful bottom of the fifth, and oh did things fall apart for Parker, all because of a simple play he couldn’t make. With one on and two out, he induced a 34.5-mph grounder back to the mound from Andy Ibañez. All he had to do was grab the ball and throw to first to end the inning. Except he never did grab the ball, booting the routine play and extending the inning.

"I let the game speed up on me," Parker said. "I tried to make the throw before I even fielded it. I've got to be better than that. We do it a lot during spring training. We do it a lot while we're here. I just can't let that happen."

Pitching coach Jim Hickey made a trip to the mound to try to settle the lefty down, but things only got worse. Parker walked Mark Canha to load the bases. And then he served up a deep drive to the wall in right-center to Riley Greene, who began motoring around the bases. Assured of at least a three-run triple, Greene wound up continuing all the way to the plate with a Little League grand slam when Luis García Jr.’s relay throw skipped away from Nick Senzel.

The Nationals had been leading 3-0. Now they trailed 4-3. And Parker didn’t throw another pitch, pulled at that point by Martinez. It was the first time he’s allowed more than three runs in any of his 11 big league starts, but officially all the runs were unearned, even though it was Parker’s error that made the whole thing possible.

"You know what, we got through it," Martinez said. "I'm proud of him. He's been pitching really well, and he's been keeping us in games. He's done well."

The Nats could lament that agonizing sequence, but they also could lament their inability to do more at the plate earlier when they had a chance to take down Kenta Maeda but failed to do so. The veteran starter could not find the strike zone in the top of the third, issuing three walks, the last of which forced home a run. But when Eddie Rosario struck out moments later, three runners were stranded on base and Maeda was bailed out.

They did score a pair of runs off reliever Beau Brieske in the fifth, thanks to Abrams’ RBI triple and his own bit of heads-up baserunning. When Thomas hit a pop foul down the first base line, Abrams retreated to third base and tagged up as Canha made the catch with his back turned toward the plate. Abrams easily scored and gave his team a 3-0 lead.

"We saw him going backwards," Abrams said. "Catching the ball over his head, it's going to be tough to turn around. I just went for it. Got Lane the RBI, too."

If only Parker had been able to take advantage of it. Thankfully, his teammates found a way to get that run back three innings later, plus the last run needed to win the game two innings after that.

"Hey, one more than the other guys," Martinez said. "The character they showed tonight was awesome. They had the lead. We lost the lead. They fought, scratched and clawed. The guys at the back end of the bullpen kept it together, and we were able to score one more run than them."

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