The Detroit Tigers are one of the top teams in the American League, and some folks tried to bill this early May matchup with the Washington Nationals as a World Series preview. It’s a little early in the season to try to sell that, but with the Nats starting to play well it was a big series nonetheless. The Nats scored their runs in the first few innings, then got great bullpen work from a trio of relievers to beat the Tigers Thursday 5-4, sweeping the two-game set from the A.L. Central powerhouse.
The win is the Nats fourth in a row and sixth in their last seven games and it leaves them 1 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the N.L. East entering play in the evening games.
The Nats (19-15) jumped on Tigers starter Doug Fister early. Denard Span led off the bottom of the first with a double over the first base bag. He went to third on Roger Bernadina’s bunt base hit and scored on Bryce Harper’s fielder’s choice that erased Bernadina at second. Ryan Zimmerman followed with a single, and Adam LaRoche did the same, plating Harper. Ian Desmond then single to center to bring home Zimmerman and give the Nats a 3-0 lead after one inning.
The Tigers got one back in the top of the second off Haren (W, 4-3, 5.17), when Fister muscled an 0-1 pitch to center for his third Major League hit of his career, scoring Jhonny Peralta from third.
The hit parade for the Nationals continued in the bottom half of the inning. With one out, Span reached when Fister clipped Span’s pant leg with an errant fastball. Bernadina fell behind 0-2 but worked the at bat for a walk. Harper struck out looking, but consecutive singles by Zimmerman and LaRoche again plated two more runs to stretch the Nats lead to 5-1 after two full.
Detroit used some small ball, then a blast to cut into the Nats lead in the sixth. With one out, Peralta drew a four-pitch walk. Haren got Alex Avila to line out to center, but on the next pitch, Omar infant reached on a perfectly placed bunt single. Matt Tuiasosopo pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot and drilled a three-run shot over the Tigers bullpen in left center to make it 5-4.
Haren’s final line (6.0 IP, 4 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR) ended up kinda messy after the homer, but he threw a good game up until that point.
The rest was up to the bullpen, and they got the job done, with Ryan Mattheus, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano all pitching scoreless innings to keep the one-run lead intact. Soriano earned his 12th save of the season in 13 tries, getting Prince Fielder to fly to the track in center for the final out of the game.
THE GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman. 3-for-4, RBI, run scored. He’s starting to heat up. Adam LaRoche went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
THE BAD: Danny Espinosa. 0-for-4, K.
THE UGLY: Tyler Moore. Pinch-hit for Bernadina against a lefty reliever and struck out on three pitches, all breaking balls.
THE STATS: 9 hits, 2 BBs, 9 Ks. 5-for-12 with RISP, 7 LOB. No errors, no DPs.
NEXT GAME: Friday starts a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs, 7:05 pm from Nats Park. Ross Detwiler (1-3, 2.50) hosts Jeff Samardzija (1-4, 3.09).