The Washington Nationals have been in more one-run games this season that just about anyone in baseball. For the first five innings of Wednesday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates nothing looked any different. But a semi-explosion of offense accounted for five runs in the sixth and seventh innings as the Nats knocked off the Pirates 7-4, before a nice crowd of 25,942 at Nats Park.
The big hit was Adam LaRoche’s bases-loaded double in the seventh that cleared the bases, the 1,000th career hit for LaRoche. The veteran first baseman homered earlier and ended up 3-for-4 with four RBIs.
“He’s been indispensable,” manager Davey Johnson said of his first baseman. “You know, we’re missing other guys in the lineup, even [Ryan Zimmerman] has been struggling. He been the one constant since day one.”
Ian Desmond (5) and Xavier Nady (3) also homered for the Nats (23-14). For Nady, it was his 100th career home run.
Gio Gonzalez was very strong once again. The lefty allowed just one run through six innings, but made a mistake to No. 8 hitter Josh Harrison in the seventh which ended up above the Pirates bullpen in left center for a two-run home run. The blast visibly upset Gonzalez on the mound, but he bore down to get out of the inning.
In his seven total innings, Gonzalez gave up three earned runs on four hits and two walks, both of which came around to score. He struck out 10, passing teammate Stephen Strasburg to take over the N.L. lead in strikeouts this season.
LaRoche’s double in the bottom half of the seventh came against right-handed reliever Evan Meek, who hit Jesus Flores and walked Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman to load the bases. The Pirates carry an eight-man bullpen but only one lefty, Tony Watson. It was a curious move by manager Clint Hurdle to leave Meek to face LaRoche as much as he struggled in the inning, but Watson has pitched three of the last four days and thrown over 40 pitches in that span. Still, one lefty in the pen and he sits in a crucial situation?
After Tyler Clippard surrendered a run in the eighth, Johnson turned to embattled temporary closer Henry Rodriguez for the save situation. Ian Desmond booted a routine grounder from the first batter to face Hot Rod, but the flamethrower struck out shortstop Clint Barmes and coaxed a double play ball from Harrison to end the game witout incident. It was Rodriguez’ ninth save in 12 tries this season.
THE GOOD: LaRoche. He’s in the top ten in the N.L. in OBP, SLG, OPS, HR, RBI and BB. Pretty solid.
THE BAD: Tyler Moore. He went 0-for-3 with two ground outs. He needs to go back to Syracuse and play every day.
THE UGLY: Tyler Clippard. Honestly, not a real big blow-up. But did give up a run in one inning on two hits, setting up a nervous save situation for Rodriguez. I’ll have more on Clippard in my guest post for MASNSports.com Thursday morning.
THE STATS: 7 hits, 3 BB, 9 Ks. 1-for-5 with RISP, 4 LOB, no GIDP. E: Desmond (7).
NEXT GAME: Thursday at 7:05 against the Pirates. Jordan Zimmermann (2-3, 2.14) hosts James McDonald (2-2, 2.42).