The Nationals came into Thursday night’s game with their longest winning streak since 2009, having strung three wins together in San Diego to close out their road trip, and in position to complete the sweep against the Cardinals. Standing in between them and their goal was the best-hitting team in the National League, and Kyle Lohse.
John Lannan’s last four starts put him in a strong position to command the respect of hitters, with an ERA of just 0.68 representing just 2 runs. Lannan thankfully got his groundball outs tonight, and faced just six more than the minimum through 7 innings tonight, getting 16 groundball outs. His sinker was sinking tonight, and the defense behind him mitigated the six hits hie gave up.
This was a game of home-runs. The ball was just flying out of the park tonight, and of the seven homers, not a single one was even close to the wall. The Nats launched four bombs, while the Cardinals hit three, none shorter than 375 feet. The biggest came in the bottom of the tenth, as the rain bore down on our fair city, Danny Espinosa evacuated the ballpark with a shot into the Nats bullpen to end it.
Espinosa’s homer was the first walk-off of his career, and lofted his RBI count to 41, leading all NL rookies, and the whole of the Nationals’ squad. He was greeted in the dugout by a cooler full of Gatorade over his shoulders after a celebration pileup at home plate as the sub horn went off in the distance signaling the Nationals win.
Tonight’s was the first win that badly needed the now-absent fireworks, though, and they were missed by this columnist. Tonight deserved a bang-zoom-go-the-fireworks, even if it weren’t any. As nice and symbolic as the sub horn is, this close to the Navy Yard, the fireworks were always the big victory moment. Let’s see if we can get those back, shall we?
The Stars: Danny Espinosa (3-5, 4 RBI, GWRBI) was immense tonight. Not just at the plate, but he was a part of a couple really stellar double plays, Espinosa has become the anchor at the center of this team. Sean Burnett (1.0 IP, 1BB) came in to pitch the tenth inning, and the whole pressbox was staring down at Manager Jim Riggleman, waiting for him to fetch Burnett after Rasmus grounded out. Everyone wanted Coffey in to face Pujols, but Riggleman stood on that top step, and let Burnett go. Two pitches later, Pujols was sitting down, having flown out weakly to right.
The Bars: While Ryan Zimmerman’s single in the 10th got the final rally started, he was just 1-5 tonight and didn’t look sharp against Kyle Lohse at all. Drew Storen gave up his a homer in the 9th to Yadier Molina that tied the game, blowing his 2nd save in 18 tries. While Storen has been historically solid this season, that homer to Molina was less than stellar.
Up Next: Battle of the Beltways begins tomorrow night with Jason Marquis’ return after a five game suspension, and he’ll face the O’s Zach Britton (6-4). Jordan Zimmerman will face Brian Matusz on Saturday, which is delightful, given that Matusz went less than two innings in his last start, surrendering 4 earned runs in 1.1 IP. Sunday’s game will return Tom Gorzelanny to the mound after a stint on the DL for shoulder inflammation, where he’ll face Chris Jakubauskas, whose name is worth 122 points in Scrabble on a triple word score with a Bingo.