Rafael Soriano has blown three saves for the Washington Nationals. All of them have resulted in tie games, the previous two went to extra innings with the Nats losing both. While the Nationals 3-8 record in extra innings sounds preposterous with how good their 2014 relief pitching has been it still exists, and avoiding extra innings in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth was key. Down to their last out after Rendon hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Span from the bases Werth was the last shot for the Nationals to avoid extra innings. It could be assumed that trading Rendon for Span would be a minus in the base running department, but Rendon is an intelligent base runner and when Werth doubled down to left field line Rendon was able to come all the way around to score.
If you’re a baseball fan that likes aggressive and intelligent base running then this was the game for you. Both teams had several plays where base running was the key going all the way back to the Nationals first run of the game in the bottom of the second. LaRoche led off the inning with a single then went first to third on Harper’s single and when LaRoche scored on Desmond’s single Harper took third drawing a throw and allowing Desmond to advance to second giving the Nationals runners second and third with one out. It wouldn’t result in any more runs but it was a sign of things to come.
With Gio Gonzalez gunning for career strikeout 1,000 and appearing to tire himself out in the process the Brewers were able to take advantage in the top of the third. After back to back walks to Braun and Ramirez, Lucroy grounded back to Gonzalez. With runners first and second this shouldn’t have resulted in a run, but Gonzalez gave Braun only a cursory glance and he never broke stride from second as he rounded third and scored on a ground out back to the pitcher. Ramirez would come around to score on a Khris Davis single and the Brewers would have the lead.
The Brewers would knock Gio Gonzalez out in the fourth inning after Segura led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a Gallardo’s sac bunt. With the infield drawn in the Nationals got what they wanted, a ground ball to Desmond, Desmond followed protocol and looked Segura back to third before throwing on to first for the out, but Segura broke with the throw and was able to beat LaRoche’s throw home in order to give the Brewers their third run of the game.
With Gio Gonzalez knocked out early the Nationals bullpen did what it has done all season and that is be great. Craig Stammen faced eight batters and retired them all, Drew Storen worked into a jam with two outs but escaped with a ground ball to Zimmerman, and Tyler Clippard struck out the side. Stammen especially kept the game close and allowed the Zimmerman two run homer in the bottom of the fourth to tie it up and the Gallardo wild pitch to give them the lead. Soriano would eventually relinquish the lead, but great base running by Rendon and a double down the line by Werth would pick him up and allow the Nats to move to ten games over .500 and maintain their virtual tie with the Braves for first place in the NL East.