If this was a preview of what we can expect in the postseason should the Dodgers and Nationals meet, well, sign me up.
The Nats’ 8-5 victory in 14 innings had more twists and turns than Mulholland Drive. Based on the run-on reactions I saw on Twitter, fans were alternately emboldened with the hope that the Nats could pull off miracle after miracle or perilously close to running out of optimism over and over.
It took 5 hours, 34 minutes and required the Nationals to use 26 players, both team records. Good thing those September call-ups arrived as reinforcements, eh?
The ebb and flow saw both managers execute replay review challenges (the Dodgers lost theirs and the Nats prevailed). Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann’s eight-strikeout performance in 6 1/3 innings was relegated to distant memory. Bryce Harper’s three-hit afternoon, er, early evening? No one will remember it.
Rafael Soriano (on an error by right fielder Jayson Werth in the ninth) and Tyler Clippard (giving up a homer to Carl Crawford in the 12th) both blew saves. The Nats needed three pitchers to get three outs in the 10th. Blake Treinen came on to work two innings for his second major league victory. Yesterday’s starting pitcher, Doug Fister, was used as a pinch-hitter so the Nationals didn’t have to burn their remaining position player on the bench, catcher Wilson Ramos.
“We had a few hiccups today and we still got the W,” Clippard said.
Adam LaRoche entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning and wound up with five RBIs - he hadn’t driven in five runs in a game he started since Aug. 1, 2010. He hit a two-run homer off L.A. closer Kenley Jansen to tie the game in the ninth, added a two-run single that made it 5-3 in the 12th and then had the tie-breaking RBI single in the 14th. LaRoche, who missed two starts in Los Angeles with a tight back, also took a pitch off his left elbow in the 11th and was swinging in pain the rest of the way, said manager Matt Williams.
Per Elias Sports Bureau, in the expansion era (since 1961), LaRoche is the second player to enter a game in the ninth inning or later and drive in five or more runs. Harold Baines had a similar five-RBI performance for the Orioles against the White Sox on May 4, 1999.
“It’s incredible,” said Harper when asked about LaRoche’s effort. “I really have no idea what’s going on. I know his back hurts. His elbow, too? For him to be able to come up there and do what he did was pretty impressive. He definitely cowboyed up at the end and came through for us.”
Clippard colorfully said LaRoche picked up the club on a day when he probably expected to take it easy on the bench and prepare his balky back for a cross-country flight to D.C.
“He (came up big) for us big-time tonight,” Clippard said. “You know, he hasn’t been feeling well and probably wasn’t planning on getting in the game. And then he gets in the game and drives in the winning run twice. He’s been a trooper today. ... He probably needed another day off and we couldn’t give it to him.”
Asdrubal Cabrera added a two-run homer in the 14th after LaRoche’s heroics.
What else did the winners have to say after completing a 4-5 road trip with series wins in Seattle and Chavez Ravine?
Williams when asked to describe the marathon: “I don’t know. I can describe it as the longest one in team history and we can go from there. You know, they just kept fighting. Really quiet early, then we had to use Adam when we didn’t want to and he ended up hitting a two-run homer to get us tied. Then it was just back and forth from there.”
Williams on how difficult it was for LaRoche to contribute after missing time with back tightness: “Beyond that, he got hit in the left elbow and he was having a really difficult time swinging the bat. But at that point, we don’t have anybody else. We’ve got Wilson, but we don’t want to use him. Harp got the base hit to load the bases (in the 12th) and he didn’t know whether he could swing, so he was talking about laying down a bunt. He just stayed on a ball and hit a two-run single. He was having a hard time swinging the bat. We’re fortunate to win that one. We gave it away a couple of times.”
Williams on using nine relievers: “It’s not by design by any stretch, but it makes it easier when you win the game.”
Williams on the range of emotions in the dugout in extra innings: “It’s not fun. You try to set it up. We matched up and we used a lot of match-ups today to try and get out of innings and they were able to do it. The homer by Crawford there, we could have folded there, and they didn’t, they didn’t fold. They answered.”
Williams on where the game ranked in his memory: “I don’t know. This is interesting. Again, it just goes to show you that you’ve got to play until the last one’s made. The last out will send you home, but you don’t know.”
Williams on what the victory means to the Nats at the end of a tough road trip: “It makes our road trip a lot better than it could have been, for sure. It’s nice to get the win and go home for an off-day. Everyone needs one, everyone’s spent at this point.”
Williams on the error by Werth in the ninth inning that allowed the Dodgers to tie the game at 3-3: “That sun’s tough as you’re going toward the line. As the ball gets lower and lower on the horizon, it’s difficult. It looked like he lost track of it a little bit. He tried to get out of the sun to catch it, but didn’t catch it.”
Harper on being part of the wacky marathon affair: “It’s crazy to be part of a game like that, back and forth all day long. We’d answer, they’d answer. We’d answer, they’d answer. A lot of good pitching, a lot of good hitting. It’s good to come out on top in that series.”
Harper on whether the game had a playoff atmosphere: “Not really because you could hear (legendary Dodgers broadcaster) Vin Scully talking though the (mostly empty) stadium. I don’t think you’ll be able to hear that when the postseason’s coming. But definitely back and forth all game long.”
Clippard on surrendering a home run to Crawford that tied the game at 5-5 in the 12th: “Just trying to go fastball down and away and left it up in the middle up. When he first hit it, I didn’t think it had enough to go over the fence, for sure. I thought it might have been a double in the gap. I would have been OK with that, could have gotten through with that one. But it was just frustrating because we had worked so hard to get to that point in the game. Pitched out of some big spots, Rochie got that late homer to tie the game (and) we go ahead. Fluky thing in the outfield happens and then we grind back to take the lead back. To give up a home run right there was heartbreaking to me.”