The Washington Nationals were left with two outs and down 4-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels when Wednesday night’s game took a positive turn. The Nats ended up beating the Angels 5-4 thanks to a walk-off RBI-single hit by first baseman Adam LaRoche sending outfielder Jayson Werth home as the go-ahead run.
Given how the rest of the night (and the series) went for Washington, that ninth inning was the turnaround they desperately needed to avoid a three-game sweep.
It all started well enough with left-handed starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez on the mound. Despite a shaky start to the first inning, Gonzalez settled in by the second inning and cruised through five innings and two batters of work. The Nats’ lefty gave up four hits, two runs, three walks, and struck out five Angels batters on 83 pitches (49 strikes).
Gonazalez was pulled in the sixth inning and replaced with right-handed rookie reliever Aaron Barrett due to what Manager Matt Williams later explained to be shoulder tightness.
“Ordinarily, I wouldn’t take him out of the game there,” Williams said after the game, “but we wanted to make sure he’s okay for our future too,” he explained, since it was a cold and windy April night at the ballpark.
Washington took an early lead with a run scored in the second inning off Los Angeles’ right-handed starter Jered Weaver. Second baseman Danny Espinosa singled with one out and proceeded to steal second base before scoring off a RBI-single hit by Gonzalez.
The Nats maintained that one-run lead up until the sixth inning when Angels outfielder Mike Trout and first baseman Albert Pujols tacked on a pair of run, making it a 2-1 game.
Los Angeles continued to score in the seventh and ninth innings against the Washington bullpen. Third baseman David Feese hit a double and scored a run off a wild pitch versus Barrett before pinch hitter Raul Ibanez — who reached base on an E3 throwing error thanks to the updated transfer rule — scored off right-handed reliever Drew Storen in the ninth; Angels 4, Nats 1.
It didn’t take long for the Nats to get to work in the bottom of the ninth though. With the game on the line, a solo leadoff homerun hit by catcher Jose Lobaton set a fiery tone for the Washington line-up to channel through the rest of the game-winning rally.
“I feel like the Lobaton at-bat was the spark we needed,” Werth said after the game. “Seems like the last few days really we just can’t get it going. We had our chances but that was the hit we needed.”
Down 4-2 with one out, outfielder Denard Span got his first hit of the night off the Angels’ right-handed closer Ernesto Frieri. From there, a successful rally unfolded. Third baseman Anthony Rendon drew a walk with Span on base before Werth hit a two-run double through the hole at shortstop sending Span and Rendon around to score and tie-up the game at four runs each. That’s when LaRoche came through with a walk-off single to left-center field – his third hit of the night – to win it 5-4 for Washington.