With 15 teams in each league now, interleague play will be a necessity almost every night of the season. The Washington Nationals started their interleague rations with a win Tuesday night, outlasting the A.L. Central Chicago White Sox 8-7 before 24,412 at Nationals Park. There were a combined six home runs in the affair, with Adam LaRoche clubbing a pair.
The scoring started in the top of the first. Gio Gonzalez toughed out a first inning where he loaded the bases on two hits and a walk while throwing 33 pitches. He almost got out of the frame unscathed but a two-strike balk while pitching to Alexei Ramirez brought in Jeff Keppinger to give the White Sox an early 1-0 lead.
The Nats tied it up in the fourth. Denard Span singled to lead off, took third on Bryce Harper’s single to right, and scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s fly out to medium deep right field.
Ian Desmond launched a no-doubt-about-it shot over the visiting bullpen to lead off the fifth and give the Nats a 2-1 lead.
Gonzalez, despite not having his best stuff, made it through five innings with a lead. He threw 99 pitches, 57 of which were strikes. He gave up just the one run on four hits and two walks, striking out seven.
That lead wouldn’t last, however. In the top of the sixth, Alex Rios lined an 0-2 pitch from reliever Craig Stammen to center to lead off the frame. He stole second and took third on Wilson Ramos’ throwing error as the ball ended up in short right center field. Paul Konerko lofted a fly to deep center that delivered Rios, leaving Gonzalez without a decision. Stammen gave up two more singles in the frame but escaped without further damage.
But the Nats had more damage left in their bats. Span led off the sixth with a double to the right field corner. Jayson Werth, who flied out to the deepest part of center field his first time up, made no mistake about it the next time, clobbering one into the left field bleachers to put the Nats back up by two.
After a Harper strikeout, Zimmerman walked to bring up Adam LaRoche, who to that point was hitless in 15 at bats this season. He crushed a 1-1 offering from Jake Peavy to straightaway center for his first hit and home run of 2013 and a 6-2 Nats lead.
The White Sox wouldn’t go quietly though. Tyler Clippard came on for the seventh inning as was roughed up. With one out, Alejandro De Aza walked, followed by a single from Jeff Keppinger. Clippard retired Alex Rios on a foul to first base, but Paul Konerko unloaded on a 1-0 fastball, sending it half way up the stands in left field to cut the Nats lead to one at 6-5.
The Nats got an insurance run in the bottom half of the seventh. Steve Lombardozzi drew a one-out walk pinch-hitting for the pitcher’s spot and went to third on an errant pick-off throw by reliever Donnie Veal. After walk by Span, Werth coaxed a ground ball through the left side for a single, which plated Lombardozzi to stretch the Nats lead back to two at 7-5.
But the scoring wasn’t quite over, as LaRoche added his second hit of the night, his second homer of the season, in the eighth inning to deliver another important insurance run and make the score 8-5.
LaRoche’s home run loomed large, as Alex Rois treated Rafael Soriano rather rudely, mashing a two-run home in the top of the ninth to extend his personal homer streak to four games and cut the lead to 8-7. But Soriano got Korerko to fly to center to end the game and send nervous Nats fans home with a smile.
THE GOOD: Adam LaRoche. He broke out in a big way, including mashing his second homer against a lefty relief specialist.
THE BAD: Danny Espinosa. 0-for-4 with a K. Now hitting .154/.214/.269.
THE UGLY: Tyler Clippard. Three runs on two hits and a walk in one inning. Not up to his usual par.
THE STATS: 13 hits, 3 BBs, 4 LOB. 2-for-4 with RISP. E: Ramos (1). 1 DP.
NEXT GAME: Wednesday vs. White Sox at 7:05 pm. Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 1.50) hosts Gavin Floyd (0-1, 3.00)