December 22, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 122 Review: Crazy play ends crazy game after 13 innings

“They had their chances. We had our chances. It was one of those games.” Nats manager Davey Johnson.

Dan Uggla fields the hard hit ball by Chad Tracy in the bottom of the 13th inning and could not make a clean play. Espinosa scores and Nats win – Atlanta Braves v. Washington Nationals, August 20, 2012, Nats win 5-4 in 13 innings. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The Washington Nationals have won some games this year in some unique ways, but last night’s topped them all.

Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla cleanly fielded pinch-hitter Chad Tracy’s ground ball in the bottom of the 13th inning. Then, well, who knows?

All we really know was the result: Danny Espinosa carried home the winning run, giving the Nats a 5-4 win in 13 innings and six-game lead over the Braves in the N.L. East.

With runners on the corners, Braves reliever Cristhian Martinez offered Tracy a 92-MPH sinker. The left-handed hitting Tracy pounded it to Uggla, who appeared to make a clean stab of the ball from his knees. When Uggla rose, he was caught between trying to find Kurt Suzuki at first base to attempt a double play, or throw home to try to nail Espinosa at the plate. He fumbled the ball after hesitating and was able to do neither.

“I was going over pretty much every situation that might or could happen,” Uggla told the Atlanta media. “I was like ‘if he hits a ball to my left’ or hits a ball hard right at me, I can just tag Kurt [Suzuki] and touch first and we can be out of it. He hit me a tough ground ball that I had to drop to my knees to catch and I didn’t exactly know where Kurt was. Once I got up and I just tried to throw the ball home, I couldn’t get the thing out of my glove.”

The ball fell to the turf and all Uggla could do at that point was watch Espinosa cross home plate and hang his head.

Asked after the game what he would have done in that situation, manager Davey Johnson, a former second baseman himself, said quickly and without hesitation, “With the infield in, you just gotta go home.”

Espinosa was on base only because he could not complete a sacrifice earlier in the inning after Ian Desmond singled to lead off. But Espinosa then made a heads-up play going first-to-third on Suzuki’s slow chop infield single when no one was covering third base to set up the first-and-third scenario for Tracy.

The wild ending made a winner out of Craig Stammen (6-1, 2.45), who threw two innings of shut out relief. In fact, manager Davey Johnson used his whole bullpen to get through the 13 innings, and seven relievers pitched eight shutout innings, allowing just four hits.

Starter Jordan Zimmermann did not have his best stuff last night and struggled with an elevated pitch count. He threw 102 pitches in just five innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and two walks, striking out just two.

Jordan Zimmermann on the mound – Atlanta Braves v. Washington Nationals, August 20, 2012, Nats win 5-4 in 13 innings. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Zimmermann allowed a run in the first inning on two hits and a walk, but his hitters came right back and staked him to a 4-1 lead when the inning was over. The big blow was Ian Desmond’s two-run home run, his 18th of the year and his first hit since returning from the disabled list. After the first inning though, Braves starter Tim Hudson and five relievers rendered the Nats bats obsolete — until that last crazy play.

THE TAKEAWAY: Wins like this get the baseball poets out talking about “teams of destiny” and the like, but it was certainly a weird ending to a tense game between division rivals. The win is significant though in that the Nats will leave this series with no less than a four-game division lead with the two teams scheduled for just one more three-game series left between them in September.

THE GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman was 2-for-4 with two walks. Everything he made contact with last night he hit hard.

THE BAD: Michael Morse went 0-for-6 and hit into a rally-killing double play to end the seventh inning. He left six runners on base.

THE UGLY: After striking out on a curveball to end the 11th inning, Bryce Harper slammed his bat in the batter’s box again, breaking the bat in two. It’s dangerous, embarrassing and unnecessary.

THE STATS: 13 hits, 6 BBs, 8 Ks. 4-for-13 with RISP, 12 LOB, 2 GIDPs. No errors, 1 DP.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 7:05 pm against the Braves. Stephen Strasburg (14-5, 2.91) hosts lefty Paul Maholm (2-1, 1.57)

Ian Desmond and Gio Gonzalez are first to congratulate Chad Tracy on his game-winning RBI single – Atlanta Braves v. Washington Nationals, August 20, 2012, Nats win 5-4 in 13 innings. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

Comments

  1. Tim Hutchens says:

    Maybe you’ve already answered this question a hundred times, but if Uggla had tagged Suzuki and gotten the ball to first in time for an out but after Danny had crossed the plate, would the run have counted? To my mind, the game was over as soon as he touched the plate, but I’m not certain.

    Thanks in advance for enlightenment. You perform a noble service!
    Tim H.

    • Dave Nichols says:

      If Uggla could have gotten the double play on a force the inning would have been over.

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