LOS ANGELES - Hey, check out the new guy.
Down in the late innings and a capacity crowd of 53,647 roaring, the Nationals pulled off one of their most dramatic comeback victories of the season thanks to their all everything super-utility signee from two days ago.
Outfielder/first baseman Gerardo Parra crushed a 2-2 four-seam fastball off Dodgers reliever Dylan Floro with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning and his team down 2-1.
The baseball sailed deep over the right-center field wall and silenced the sold-out Dodger Stadium gathering. The Nats had their first lead since Thursday night, 5-2.
Parra screamed in delight as he rounded the bases, his neck muscles pulsating as he approached his new teammates, stepped on home plate and celebrated into the dugout.
“Happy, happy. Great moment for me,” Parra said of his first hit with the Nats. “I tried to help my team to win and that’s what we do. Just hitting good pitch. Pitch in the zone. Try to put the ball in play.”
Scherzer (2-4) lasted seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits with two walks, two hit-by-pitches and seven strikeouts. Doolittle earned his sixth save. It was the Nats’ third win in nine games on this road trip.
With a victory Sunday, the Nats would earn their first series win since April 18 against the Giants.
“We needed this,” Scherzer said. “That was a heck of an inning for us. We caught a little break, capitalized on one of their errors and set for a big inning. And then got into a two-out situation. Man, to see Parra hit that ball over the wall I think this whole dugout went nuts. That gave us so much energy to go out there and compete in the eighth and the ninth. That’s what we needed.”
The Dodgers had taken the lead in the third thanks to a two-run shot from Justin Turner. But the Nats came back to shock the first-place club, 5-2, handing them only their second setback at home in 13 games this season. Both losses have been to the Nats.
Scherzer, who has watched his club lose six of eight previous games he started this season, enjoyed the eighth-inning fight his teammates demonstrated.
“I’m right there living and dying with every pitch, watch our offense grind out every run possible and try to make their relievers work as hard as possible and that’s what they did tonight,” Scherzer said. “You saw (Juan) Soto with that huge at-bat. He had such a great at-bat, fight off pitches, he was able to get a big hit in that situation. It feels good when you got out there and you go deep into a game and then the offense responds like that. That’s what’s you live for.”
Soto pulled off a tenacious nine-pitch at-bat versus Scott Alexander. His bases loaded single scored Wilmer Difo to get the Nats on the board.
“That’s why I come (to play) every day,” Soto said of the at-bat. “For me that’s the fun part of the game. I go there and fight into the final. No matter what happened you got to go out there and fight until they kill you.”
Martinez was impressed with Soto’s at-bats in first game back since May 1.
“He worked the walk in his first at-bat which we talk about all the time: take your walks and he worked a good walk,” Martinez said. “And then that last at-bat, man, he fouled off some pretty good pitches and was able to get on top of a really high pitch and hit it to left field which was awesome.”
Anthony Rendon struck out against Floro, but taxed him for eight pitches. Parra’s second career grand slam came on the 22nd pitch of the inning from Floro. The blast was his third career go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later, first since June 9, 2010 against Atlanta. Parra’s previous grand slam was April 22, 2012, also against the Braves.
Martinez said every at-bat his club worked through in the eighth was game-changing, culminating in the gutsy grand slam from Parra.
“He had a great at-bat. They all did that inning,” Martinez said. “(Parra) hitting a home run right there was awesome. Can’t say enough about the guys, staying with it and playing hard all game, playing good defense. Max was really good. We had a good conversation. He wanted to stay out there for the seventh. We were able to come back and get a win for him.”
The Nationals had to feel like they wasted a huge opportunity in the first inning against Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler.
Adam Eaton singled and Victor Robles reached on a bunt single. Soto, in his first game in 10 days, walked. But as Soto trotted to first base, Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes fired to second baseman Kiké Hernández, who tagged out Robles. It appeared Robles thought that he was moving to third with a runner on first.
Instead of the bases loaded with no outs, the Nats had runners on the corners and one away. Rendon flew out to right field and Parra struck out swinging to end the threat. Martinez explained what happened to Robles on the play.
“I’m going to say this about Robles, I love the kid,” Martinez said. “He plays the game the right way. He plays hard, but sometimes the 21-year-old comes out on him. He thought the umpire had called timeout and he was going to walk over to see our third base coach, talk to him, and obviously he did it. It’s going to happen with a 21-year-old. I talked to him. I said we need you so keep your head up. Keep playing hard.”