The Washington Nationals nearly blew a five-run lead but a ninth-inning diving catch by Denard Span secured the team’s 6-5 win over the San Francisco Giants Wednesday night at Nationals Park.
The victory marked the Nats’ fifth straight and Jordan Zimmermann’s 14th “W”, which leads the National League.
The Nats’ ace (W, 14-6) allowed just one run on six hits and two walks over 7.0 innings pitched. In fact, his only run allowed came in the second inning after Hunter Pence drew a one-out walk and stole second. With two outs, Roger Kieschnick brought him home on a single up the middle.
The Nats responded as quickly as possible as Ian Desmond led off the bottom of the inning with a game-tying solo shot to left off starter Tim Lincecum.
And, in the bottom of the fourth, the Nats did something they have done quite infrequently as of late – they provided much-needed run support.
Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth hit back-to-back singles and advanced on a grounder by Desmond. Then, Lincecum intentionally walked Adam LaRoche to pitch to Anthony Rendon with the bases loaded.
It proved a costly decision as Rendon doubled in Harper and Werth. Kurt Suzuki followed through with a single to bat in another run and, with two outs, Span walked before Lincecum tossed a wild pitch, allowing Rendon to score.
Before the Giants could record out three, Ryan Zimmerman singled home Suzuki to give Washington a 6-1 lead.
But, as the Nats have been reminded time and time again this season, nothing comes easy in baseball.
In the top of the eighth, the Nats’ seemingly untouchable lead began to crumble as the bullpen took the mound.
Brandon Belt homered to right off Ian Krol to trim Washington’s lead to four runs.
One homer was all it took for Davey Johnson to call upon Ryan Mattheus, but that didn’t quite stop the bleeding.
Mattheus’s first batter faced, Buster Posey, singled on a soft liner to left. Pence backed him up with a single and Pablo Sandoval doubled both runners in to make it 6-4 Nationals before Tyler Clippard finally shut things down.
In the top of the ninth, Rafael Soriano took the mound in an “untuck” situation. All was nearly lost, however, after the Nats’ closer allowed a single to Hector Sanchez and another to Belt, who brought home pinch-runner Andres Torres to make it 6-5 Nats.
Buster Posey singled to put the tying run on second with two outs before Hunter Pence hit a fly ball up the middle that could have – and should have – plated the go-ahead runner.
But, it didn’t.
Instead, Span dove across the outfield grass in what was quite likely his best catch of the season, allowing the Nats to tie their best win streak of the season with five consecutive. The win also allowed Washington to pull within one win of the .500 mark and 8 1/2 of an NL Wild Card spot.
THE GOOD: While Rafael Soriano might owe Denard Span dinner, the Washington Nationals have Jordan Zimmermann to thank for Wednesday night’s win – as well as 13 others this season. Zimmermann pitched yet another gem and, at least for a short while, it seemed the Nats provided him enough run support to sit pretty for a while.
And, at last, the Nats did more with less. The San Francisco Giants tallied 13 hits, compared to Washington’s eight, but the Nats made it count, going 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranding only four, compared to San Francisco’s nine.
THE BAD: Rafael Soriano has given the Nats plenty of cause to feel anything but assured that a save situation will result in a win.
THE STATS: 6 R, 8 H, 2 BB, 4 K, 3-for-7 RISP, 4 LOB
NEXT GAME: Thursday, 4:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park – RHP Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 6.71) vs. RHP Dan Haren (7-11, 4.99)