The Washington Nationals may be a long run away from playoff contention, but their 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants Tuesday night marked their fourth straight win and narrowed their deficit in the NL Wild Card race to 8 ½ games.
It was all made possible by Adam LaRoche’s sixth-inning two-run shot, which put the Nats out in front after both Washington and San Francisco had only mustered one run apiece through the first five innings of a contest that featured a 77 minute rain delay.
Starter Gio Gonzalez was sharp through four scoreless innings pitched. He allowed just four hits and two walks on 69 total pitches but was pulled from the game after the delay due to soreness in his back. Before his day was done, Gonzalez held a one-run advantage after Ian Desmond doubled, LaRoche singled and Wilson Ramos grounded in Desmond.
Hidden gem Tanner Roark (W, 2-0) held things together for Gonzalez and the Nats, providing two innings of relief.
In the top of the fifth, Roark forced Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres to ground out before Joaquin Arias and Brandon Belt hit back-to-back singles to put pressure on the 26-year-old right-hander. Roark got Buster Posey to chop to short, but Desmond booted it, allowing Arias to tie the game 1-1.
The Giants called upon Guillermo Moscoso (L, 1-1) in the fifth and he remained in the game just long enough to allow a lead-off single to Desmond in the sixth and the two-run homer by LaRoche.
Fernando Abad and Ryan Mattheus helped the Giants pull within one run in the seventh. Abad gave up a single to Arias before Mattheus took the mound. Mattheus walked the first batter he faced – Posey – and gave up a single to Hunter Pence that made it 3-2 Nationals.
Luckily for Washington, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano (SV, 30) shut down San Francisco’s offense over the last two innings of play. In the meantime, Jayson Werth doubled to lead off the eighth and took third on a single by Desmond and force out by LaRoche. Kurt Suzuki then brought home Werth on a sacrifice fly to right. Suzuki first entered the game in the fifth after Ramos left with discomfort in his left hamstring.
While the Nationals took charge of the game from midway to finish, Tuesday night featured its share of tension, not the least of which occurred in the home dugout. During the first inning, Gonzalez and Werth appeared to get in each other’s faces after the Giants threatened in the top of the first on plays that featured less-than-stellar defense by both Gonzalez and Werth.
THE GOOD: Frustration is not always a bad thing, not when it sparks the will to do something. There’s no way to say if the first-inning tiff between Gio Gonzalez and Jayson Werth mattered in any way, shape or form – from Werth’s standpoint, he still went on to strike out twice. That said, exchanges of words and evidence of frustration can serve as a reminder that the Nats are still aiming to achieve something, whether or not the “World Series or Bust” rally cry seems too far gone.
The Nats also have further reason to celebrate their pitching. From start to finish, Washington held it together, namely Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark, who earned his second career win. Despite his troubles this season, Rafael Soriano at long last earned his 30th “untuck” of the year.
THE BAD: The Nats went just 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight.
THE UGLY: Wilson Ramos exited the game with left hamstring trouble – the same injury that has made him very acquainted with the disabled list this season. If that’s not ugly enough, the injury opened up the discussion on MASN of who the Nats would have called upon if Kurt Suzuki had to be removed from the game – which led to Steve Lombardozzi’s name being tossed into the mix. No one really wants to see that.
Also worth noting, Bryce Harper, who pinch-hit for Scott Hairston in the eighth, missed the start of Tuesday night’s game due to flu symptoms.
THE STATS: 4 R, 9 H, 5 BB, 6 K, 2-for-13 with RISP, 8 LOB
NEXT GAME: Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. RHP Tim Lincecum (6-11, 4.18) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (13-6, 3.10)