Young caps Nats' rally with first walk-off hit of career (updated)

The Nationals’ six-week surge this summer was keyed in large part by their ability to win the late innings of games, both at the plate and on the mound. Their more recent six-game slide has seen them lose games late on multiple occasions, reversing the trend.

So wouldn’t you know they finally snapped the losing streak by storming back to beat the Mets in walk-off fashion?

The fact one of their recent young call-ups delivered it only made this 3-2 win sweeter: Jacob Young’s chopper up the middle past a drawn-in infield scored Carter Kieboom from third and gave the Nats an opportunity to celebrate for the first time in a week.

"Right when I hit it, I kind of saw where I hit it, and it was a good spot," said the 24-year-old outfielder who opened the season at Single-A Wilmington and was promoted three times to reach the majors two weeks ago. "It felt great to look at the dugout, and everyone was already coming out. It's a great feeling to have all your boys running out at you."

On a record-setting September evening in the District – first-pitch temperature was 97 degrees, hottest for a game at Nationals Park since July 2012 – the Nats dug themselves into an early hole and went silent at the plate for six innings before finally waking up late.

They scored a pair of runs in the seventh to tie the game, then hoped the back end of their bullpen would keep the Mets from scoring again and provide time for their own lineup to plate the winning run.

That’s exactly what Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan did, posting zeros in the top of the eighth and ninth innings to create the opportunity for their teammates.

"It's awesome, because we've been struggling," manager Davey Martinez said. "To see these guys fight back like that was great."

The winning rally was made possible by a leadoff, four-pitch walk drawn by Kieboom off Phil Bickford, who then plunked Jake Alu in the arm. Ildemaro Vargas bunted both runners into scoring position, bringing Young to the plate with a chance to win it.

The rookie had already extended his hitting streak to eight games with a fifth-inning double. This time, he battled back from an 0-2 count to send Bickford's high fastball up the middle and drive home the winning run for the first walk-off hit of his career.

"It's meant the world to be given this chance by the Nationals," Young said. "And then to have all these moments, these 'firsts,' is an awesome opportunity. To be able to help win a game ... it feels really good to get acclimated. Hopefully we can keep it going."

Young's clutch hit capped a late rally by a Nationals team that found itself in an all-too-familar early hole again tonight. This was the sixth game of a nine-game homestand, and for the sixth straight game their starter gave up at least one run in the top of the first.

Joan Adon was the culprit this time, trailing 1-0 only two batters into the game after allowing a leadoff double to Brandon Nimmo and an RBI single to Francisco Lindor. But to his credit, the young right-hander didn’t allow things to spiral out of control after that, the way Patrick Corbin and Trevor Williams did on previous nights.

Adon got out of the first with nothing else on the board, deftly pitching around an intentional walk of Pete Alonso to retire the next two batters and strand a runner on third. He stranded another runner on third in the second, then two more runners in the third. He nearly pulled off another escape act in the fifth, again intentionally walking Alonso and then striking out Brett Baty to leave two runners on with two out. But Mark Vientos singled to left, scoring Lindor and ruining Adon’s latest attempt to pitch out of trouble.

All things considered, the Nationals can’t be upset with what they got from Adon tonight: five innings of two-run ball on 80 pitches. Compared to other recent performances in the rotation, this was downright dominant.

"I understand they got a few base hits the first inning, but I stayed with my same game plan," Adon said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. "I made some good pitches, and they made adjustments to those pitches. I still had a game plan going into that game, and I stuck to it and continued making my pitches." 

It does require some semblance of offensive support to take advantage of such a pitching performance, though, and the Nats once again couldn’t mount any sustained pressure against an opposing starter despite his lack of experience and track record.

José Butto, making only the sixth start of his career and selected for this one only because Carlos Carrasco dropped a 50-pound barbell on his pinky finger and broke it, completed six scoreless innings on a mere 74 pitches, the Nats managing all of four hits and a walk in that time.

Mets manager Buck Showalter, though, let the rookie take the mound again for the bottom of the seventh, and that’s when the Nationals lineup finally came to life. Singles by Dominic Smith and Alu left two on with one out, and that’s when Showalter finally made the decision to pull his starter and summon Trevor Gott from the bullpen.

Martinez countered that move by sending Vargas up to pinch-hit for Alex Call, and Vargas immediately rewarded that decision by lining an RBI single to right. Two batters later, CJ Abrams rapped a single up the middle to tie the game and leave Gott (the former Nationals reliever) with a blown save.

"I was trying to see if one of these guys could hit a home run, with Finnegan coming in the game, and end it there," said Martinez, who also had Riley Adams pinch-hit for Travis Blankenhorn in the eighth, then had to send Michael Chavis up to finish the at-bat when Adams departed with a left hand injury.

Abrams would later swipe second base for his second steal of the night, his 40th of the season, joining Trea Turner (twice) and Alfonso Soriano as the only players in club history to reach that mark. As much as he was excited about his personal achievement, the young shortstop was just as excited to see his young teammate deliver the game-winning hit in the ninth.

"I believed in him," Abrams said. "I know he'd put it in play for sure. Off the bat, I knew it was going through, and we all celebrated."


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