ATLANTA - A lot happened during Saturday’s 5-3 14-inning victory for the Nationals. Obviously, Max Scherzer’s pinch-hit single and scamper around the bases to score the go-ahead run drew much of the attention and rightfully so.
But this game also would not have been won by the Nationals if not for a brilliant pitching performance against a Braves lineup that has been among the most productive in the majors this season.
Gio Gonzalez authored another quality start, allowing three runs in seven innings (all three coming on Johan Camargo’s homer in the fifth). Gonzalez struck out nine and did not issue a walk, and it was the first time he had done that since 2012, his first season with the Nationals.
The Nationals bullpen, meanwhile, was ridiculously good. Perfect, as a matter of fact. Six relievers combined to toss seven scoreless innings, retiring all 21 batters they faced.
Ryan Madson got things started with a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth, his second straight scoreless appearance since returning from the disabled list. Sammy Solís and Shawn Kelley combined to pitch a scoreless ninth and send the game into extra innings. Brandon Kintzler retired the side on eight pitches in the 10th.
The real star, though, was Justin Miller, the recently promoted right-hander who pitched the 11th, 12th and 13th innings and kept the game knotted at 3-3 to set the stage for the winning rally. Miller struck out the final four batters he faced, capping the first three-inning appearance of his professional career (as far as he can remember) with a flourish.
Miller is on some kind of run. He has now pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings for the Nationals, allowing one hit, striking out 10 and walking none. Combine that with his nine scoreless appearances at Triple-A Syracuse before his promotion, and the 30-year-old right-hander now has thrown 19 total scoreless innings in 2018, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out 33 batters.
“Incredible,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I have no other words.”
Sean Doolittle finished it off with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 14th, notching his 14th save in 15 attempts. Though the closer did so by recording three flyball outs. That was a stark departure from his teammates on this day.
The Nationals pitching staff as a whole recorded 16 strikeouts without issuing a walk in the game. It was only the second time that happened to the Braves in the franchise’s last 110 years, matching their 16-strikeout, zero-walk game on July 14, 1989 against the Mets.
This was, however, the sixth time the Nationals pitching staff has done it. It happened in Stephen Strasburg’s debut against the Pirates (June 8, 2010), twice in 2015 (Scherzer and six relievers on Sept. 2 against the Cardinals, then in Scherzer’s Oct. 3 no-hitter over the Mets) and twice in 2016 (Scherzer’s 20-strikeout game against the Tigers on May 11, plus Scherzer and two relievers on June 13 versus the Cubs).