Luis García went after the first pitch from Rays reliever Nick Anderson in the 10th inning and homered over the right-center field wall for his second big league homer as the Nationals survived Daniel Hudson’s blown save for a 4-2 win over the Rays on Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
García drilled Anderson’s 94 mph fastball a few minutes after the Rays’ Brandon Lowe had tied the game with a homer off Hudson in the bottom of the ninth. For Anderson, it was only the fifth hit he had allowed in 15 appearances and first earned run.
With a runner on second base, García had a discussion with manager Davey Martinez before the at-bat on their game plan.
“He told me, ‘Generally, this is a situation to bunt the runner over, but I have confidence in you and in your swing so he’s going to come right at you with the get-me-over type of fastball so just be ready for it,’ ” García said via interpreter Octavio Martinez on his postgame Zoom video call with reporters.
“I told him (to) get ready for the fastball,” Martinez said. “I don’t know if they thought we were going to try bunt in that situation, but I told him be ready to hit that first-pitch fastball and get on it. We are not going to bunt. We want to score as many runs as possible. He put a good swing on it and obviously he hit the home run.”
Kyle McGowin struck out all three batters he faced in the bottom of the 10th to record his first save of the season. The Rays were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, as the Nats took the season series, three games to one.
The Nats were one strike away from victory until Lowe homered in the bottom of the ninth, tying the game at 2-2.
“Their closer today gave up the two-run homer, so that stuff happens,” Martinez said of Hudson’s struggles. “The fact that we come back and keep playing the game and we don’t quit, that’s awesome, man. These guys, they are giving it their all. They are going out there and playing hard. Luis comes through today with a big homer for us.”
The Nats did a nice job early on of keeping the high-scoring Rays off the board.
Manager Davey Martinez remained patient the entire season with right-hander Austin Voth, despite struggles start after start. Voth put it all together in the series finale to reward the skipper’s trust, working five innings, allowing one run on four hits with three walks (two intentional) and striking out six in a no-decision.
The right-hander cranked his fastball up to the mid-90s and moved his curveball around the strike zone to keep the Rays away from a big inning. And that was a big deal because Voth had allowed five or more runs in four starts and three or more runs in seven games.
“The main thing for me was I was using my legs today properly,” Voth said. “I felt like I still had energy and stuff left in the tank in the fifth inning and I felt like I could go back out for the sixth inning even though I had (88) pitches. I had a lot more life on my fastball because I was using my legs and I was able to work off my fastball.”
The Rays had at least one runner in scoring position in each inning, but Voth did a nice job of pitching out of each jam. The 28-year-old recorded a strikeout in four of those five frames. Tampa Bay had three extra-base hits over his start, but managed only one run. Voth’s whiff rate reached 36 percent, after he registered just a 17 percent average in his previous starts.
The Nats also employed strategy against the Rays’ hot-hitting Nate Lowe. After his RBI double in the first that gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead, Martinez elected to intentionally walk him in his next two at-bats against Voth. The right-hander was then able get Manuel Margot to end the inning each time. Voth matched his season high with 88 pitches, 56 for strikes.
“I love the way he was attacking the strike zone with his fastball,” Martinez said of Voth’s start. “He established his fastball and his secondary pitches were a lot better. He went after them today with his fastball and I loved it. I told him, ‘That’s what I remember you being so let’s continue to build off of that and your next start, build off of that one.’ That was really good.”
“It was huge,” Voth said of his bounceback. “Just to be able to come out here and throw the way I did today. I have been working week in and week out and it seems like I haven’t been getting progress for the longest time, and to get a start like today is great.”
The Nats offense could not take advantage of the Rays opener Peter Fairbanks, who pitched a scoreless first inning. Tampa Bay used three pitchers in the first two innings and it worked. The best was Josh Fleming, who pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed only one hit.
It was Cabrera’s seventh homer of the season and second round-tripper in three games after a long drought. Prior to these two homers this week, Cabrera’s last home run was Aug. 17.
Leading off the eighth, pinch-hitter Jake Noll recorded another single on a hot shot that third baseman Joey Wendle could not glove. Noll was 2-for-2 against the Rays in the series.
Right fielder Adam Eaton left the game after three innings with a bruised finger, according to Martinez. Eaton was injured on a bunt attempt and was replaced by Josh Harrison. Martinez said the Nats will re-evaluate Eaton’s finger on Thursday.
After Wander Suero put together a 1-2-3 sixth inning, Kyle Finnegan allowed a pair of singles in the seventh. With two outs, he lost a battle with Lowe and walked him on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. But Finnegan got Margot to ground out to shortstop to end the threat.
Will Harris pitched a scoreless eighth, but Hudson allowed the solo homer to Brandon Lowe in the bottom of the ninth to tie it. It was Hudson’s fifth blown save of the season.
The Nats have a day off Thursday as they travel to Miami to begin five-game series against the Marlins on Friday at Marlins Park.