The Washington Nationals got power production from the middle of their lineup Friday night against San Diego, but when it counted… finally… the bench came through, as Chad Tracy’s pinch-hit home run in the top of the tenth inning led the Nats over the Padres 6-5 to take the first two games of the four-game set at Petco Park.
This game had a little of everything: bad starting pitching, good starting pitching, good defense, not-so-good defense. Timely hitting… well, you get the point. But homers by Adam LaRoche (two on the night), Ryan Zimmerman and, ultimately, Chad Tracy, paced the Nats offense and led them to victory.
Gio Gonzalez got the start for the Nats (23-19), and it looked to start with like we were going to get “Bad Gio”, as he allowed two runs in the bottom of the first on a couple of walks, a steal, a single, and a throwing error by Bryce Harper. What made matters worse was that the Nats were doing their best to stay off the bases completely against Padres rookie starter Burch Smith, striking out whenever they had the chance.
After Gio righted the ship, the Nats finally broke through on Smith in the top of the fourth inning. Harper singled to right and too second on Ryan Zimmerman’s single to left. Adam LaRoche stepped up and continued his hot streak, homering for the third game in a row with a massive clout to center.
The Nats tacked on two more in the sixth, with Zimmerman (2) and LaRoche (7) going back-to-back, chasing Smith from the game, making it 5-2.
Jedd Gyorko homered in the bottom of the frame to cut the Nats lead to two.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the ninth. Rafael Soriano came on to close the game out, but was victimized by some poor defense and lucky hits. With one out, Chris Denorfia grounded one toward the hole. Zimmerman ranged to his left and make a clean pickup, but threw to the inside of the bag, drawing LaRoche off first. Soriano got Everth Cabrera to fly to center for the second out, but Chase Headley singled to right to plate Denorfia to make it 5-4. Yonder Alonso pinch-hit and singled to right to make it first-and-third, then Kyle Blanks hit a soft line drive to right to score Headley to tie the game.
Huston Street entered for the Padres (18-23), but with two outs he left a changeup in the middle of the plate and Chad Tracy delivered, with the first pinch-hit RBI of the season for the Nats, driving the change into the right-center bullpen to break the tie.
Despite some nervous moments in the bottom of the frame. Drew Storen hung on for his first save of the season, despite allowing two singles in the inning.
THE GOOD: Adam LaRoche. Welcome back.
THE BAD: Danny Espinosa. 0-for-4, 3 Ks. I might have to retire “The Bad” until Danny gets his shoulder fixed.
THE UGLY: 15 strikeouts. 15! I know that these days no one has a stigma about striking out, but seriously, 15 Ks?!?
THE STATS: 7 hits, 2 BBs, 15 Ks. 1-for-3 with RISP, 3 LOB. E: Harper (3, throw), Gonzalez (1, throw), Zimmerman (9, throw). No DPs.
NEXT GAME: Saturday at 8:40 pm ET against the Padres. Jordan Zimmermann (7-1, 1.69) faces Eric Stultz (3-3. 4.57).