It is almost the perfect formula for a vulture win. The starting pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann, pitched a masterful seven innings giving up only one run on four hits and no walks with three strikeouts. The Nationals once again weren’t going to make it easy on him as Jordan Zimmermann has given up a run in every one of his starts but only one, and before the eighth inning tonight the Nationals had scored exactly zero with Zimmermann as the pitcher of record.
That all changed in the bottom of the seventh when Ankiel hit a double after Jayson Werth had grounded out for the first out of the inning. During Ramos’ at bat the Astros pitcher, Lucas Harrell, balked to advance Ankiel to third with one out. Needing only a sacrifice fly to tie the game the Nationals poor situational hitting would continue with Ramos striking out. Roger Bernadina would pick up his teammates and tie the game by lacing a double into left.
In the top of the eighth Ryan Mattheus would come on from the pen with Davey Johnson not wanting to get into the habit of using Tyler Clippard every night. Mattheus would quickly allow a lead-off double to the catcher Jason Castro. Then he would get the next two outs on amazing plays by Ryan Zimmerman.
Marwin Gonzalez stood in the batters box with everyone knowing what he intended to do. The eighth inning of a tied ballgame is an instance where playing for one run makes since and Gonzalez was ready to bunt. What no one was ready for was that when he bunted it foul a hard charging Zim would quickly and effortlessly not only change directions but then lay out and snag the ball out of the air for the out.
The next batter Jose Altuve must have been just as surprised when he rocketed a pitch towards the left field line only to see a diving Zim pop up with the baseball. With Castro still at second and now two outs Mattheus would give up his third hard hit ball of the inning. Schafer would hit one to the right side of the infield though where a diving LaRoche couldn’t make the play and score the go ahead run. Mattheus would get the final out of the inning on a fly ball to Ankiel.
When Mattheus had entered the game the Nationals had just fought back to tie the game and suddenly they were down and Mattheus was in line for the loss, but all that was about to change. Nats fans should recognize the Astros. The 2012 Astros might be the closest thing there is to the 2009 Nationals. After just capturing their second one run lead of the game the Astros bullpen would give away the game.
Espinosa would lead off the inning with a walk and as any old baseball man will tell you, you never walk the lead-off batter. Zimmerman would then single through the hole between second and first. With two on and none gone Brad Mills would summon the lefty Wright from the bullpen to face LaRoche. Wright would get ahead of LaRoche 0-2 before allowing LaRoche to fight all the way back and draw the walk. Wright would exit the game without recording an out and Cruz would enter to face Werth.
Werth being the patient hitter that he is wouldn’t swing at the slop Cruz threw to him and ended up getting the RBI walk to tie the game. The Nats needed one more run to take the lead and still had three outs to work with. With the infield drawn in against the hard swinging Ankiel he would ground one back to the second baseman for the fielder’s choice force out at home. With one out and Ramos at the plate a fly ball would still give the Nats the lead and that is what Ramos delivered. It was his second chance of the night to come through in such a situation and this time he did.
Bernadina would then fly out to end the inning and Henry Rodriguez would make quick work of the Astros batters to end the game and give Mattheus a vulture win and the Nats their third victory in three games against the Astros and their sixth of this homestand. The Nationals will once again be going for their first four game home series sweep since moving to the Nation’s Capital when Edwin Jackson takes on Bud Norris tomorrow night.