The biggest deficit that the Nationals have ever overcome in the 9th inning, going into tonight’s game, was 2 runs. Tonight they battled back from 4 runs behind, and with two outs in the ninth inning, mounted a 5-run rally capped by a monster home run off the bat of rookie Wilson Ramos into the left field stands.
After being limited to just a single run against the Mariners’ Doug Fister, the Nationals came into the ninth inning down 5-1. Jayson Werth, now sporting just a soul patch, having earlier shaved his beard, confounded Justin Smoak with a hard hit ball to first. It deflected right off the glove of Smoak and Werth was at 2nd with no one out. Roger Bernadina drew a 7-pitch walk, the Nats were suddenly threatening. Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a 6-4-3 double play just three pitches later, and it looked very much like Brandon League would be getting himself out of another jam. Jerry Hairston Jr., who entered the game when Laynce Nix aggravated his right Achilles tendon, struck a single up the middle, plating Werth for the first run of the ninth.
The Nationals were now threatening in earnest, having been limited to just three more batters than the minimum by Fister through eight full. Morse made strong contact off a slide from League, and hit it into the Mariners’ closer, ricocheting the ball back toward the 3rd base-line, and injuring League. With the trainers coming out, it looked like the Mariners might add injury to insult. With two down in the 9th, the Nationals had the tying run at the plate in Danny Espinosa, ratching the crowd of 21,502 into action. Hungry for a rally, Espinosa hit the very first pitch from Danny Pauley up the middle, scoring Hairston, making it 5-3. Wilson Ramos came to the plate as the winning run, and he just pounded an 84-mph changeup from Pauley into the left field seats to bring the house down on the Mariners.
As sweet as the win was, and as exciting as it was to see home plate awash with white and red as Wilson Ramos gave his first game-winning home run a worthy trot, there was a lot to dislike in this Nationals game. While it eventually brought the team just one win short of .500, the outing from Livan Hernandez tonight was pretty well atrocious. 4+ innings of 5-run ball, giving up 10 hits and walking one. Of the 21 batters he faced, more than half ended up aboard the bases, and the five runs he gave up were fairly crippling.
Fortunately, the Nationals had help from their bullpen tonight, with Ryan Mattheus going a pair of scoreless, hitless innings, and two more scoreless innings from Collin Balester, before Todd Coffey came on to pitch a scoreless ninth. The bullpen did their job tonight, combining for 5IP, 3 H, 0R and 2 Ks. Mattheus has allowed just one hit since coming up to the Nationals, in 3 appearances spanning 4.1 IP.
The Stars: Wilson Ramos gets the #1 star for his 9th inning heroics. Ryan Mattheus gets another for his 2 innings of hitless relief, including stranding a runner left by his predecessor.
The Bars: Ryan Zimmerman was 0-4 tonight and grounded into 3 double plays. While his throwing motion is coming around, and he made a pair of good charging plays in the infield, he’s got to keep his bat into it. Livan Hernandez, off a 9-inning complete-game shutout a week ago had a pretty putrid night.
Next Up: The Nats play for .500 tomorrow night on dollar hotdog night against the Mariners. John Lannan is also going for a .500 record, as he’s 5-6.