December 10, 2019

Washington Nationals Game 70 Review: Offensive Miracle in the First Allows Sweep

NATIONALS BAT AROUND IN FIRST, SCORE NINE IN SWEEP OF PITTSBURGH PIRATES

It didn’t take long for the Washington Nationals to build an insurmountable lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates, completing a three-game sweep, with a 9-2 victory. The Nationals sent 12 men to the plate in the first inning, scoring nine runs, and knocking out Charlie Morton before 2:15pm.

The first inning was a disaster for Pittsburgh, as the Nationals gathered 8 hits and a walk against Charlie Morton before he was finally relieved of his duties. Bryce Harper and Yunel Escobar each hit no-doubt home runs, and Clint Robinson and Gio Gonzalez added doubles. Before the end of the first, eight of the nine Nationals had reached safely.

The deluge of offense tied the team record for runs in any inning, and set a new high-water mark for runs in the first inning. It was the first time all year the Nationals sent twelve men to the plate in a single inning, and their fifth time batting around.

After the first inning, the Nationals bats returned to their dormant state. Danny Espinosa and Jose Lobaton had hits in the second, and Michael A. Taylor and Tyler Moore had hits in the eighth, but beyond that the Nats couldn’t touch Vance Worley, or Antonio Bastardo. Fortunately, they didn’t have to.

Matt Thornton pitched a scoreless eighth inning for Washington, giving up only a hit to Josh Harrison. Felipe Rivero came on to pitch a low-leverage ninth for the Nats, and gave up a two-run moon shot home run to Corey Hart, ending the team’s scoreless streak at 24 2/3 innings. That was all the Pirates could muster, however, as Rivero retired Gregory Polanco on a line drive, stranding Mercer at second.

Manager Matt Williams was muted in his praise for the offense on Sunday. Asked about the effect of a series like this one, he was quick to focus on the pitching: “[Pitching] sets our tone, certainly. Doesn’t mean that it’ll happen every day, but I like the way we were aggressive offensively early as well, guys are starting to get their legs back, we’re using the basepaths a little more. That’s certainly part of our equation, and our defense has been solid, too. Over the course of three days, all of that adds up to chance to win games.”

On Escobar and Harper’s great season so far: “They’re both swinging well, they have been all season. Both have maintained approach, taking what the pitcher’s been giving them. The at-bats between the homers are good: walks, on-base percentage, run-scoring base hits are important.”

On Harper’s toughness: “He wants to be out there. He’s had his fair share, and probably more than his fair share, really, of injuries over the years, freaky stuff. It’s nice he’s able to maintain that health, and be out there every day.”

On Getting to Charlie Morton: “We had a couple of ‘seeing-eye hits’, to be perfectly honest, but you need those sometimes, that helps our offense. Guys had a good approach, made him hit the ball up. For the most part, though, we got him up.”

Williams played his cards close to his chest about Stephen Strasburg’s return, and the team is expected to make an announcement Monday on the off-day, or Tuesday before the Braves arrive. Anthony Rendon was just given an off-day on Sunday, nothing more.

HERO: Yunel Escobar (2 for 5, HR, 3RBI, 2R) for another fine day. Ian Desmond gets an honorable mention for a ridiculously good defensive stop in the ninth inning.

GOAT: No goat today! Here’s a fainting goat.

NATS NOTES:

  • When I asked Dan Kolko if MASN paid his dry-cleaning bill for yesterday, he said it’s still in negotiations. C’mon MASN, get the man’s suit done.
  • The Nats batted around in the first, scoring 9 runs, and tying the high-water mark for run in any inning.
  • It was the fifth time this season the Nationals have batted around this season so far, and the first time they sent twelve men to the plate in one inning.
  • With one out in the bottom of the second, Danny Espinosa singled to right center, and became the last of the Nationals to get aboard safely.
  • Holding the Pirates scoreless through 8 today set a new Nationals team record (2005 – Present) for consecutive shutout innings. The old record of 23 innings was set twice, once in 2005, and once in 2014.
  • Bryce Harper got into it with home plate Sean Barber after a called third strike in the fourth inning. It looked very much like Harper was courting yet another ejection.

NEXT UP: The Braves come to town Tuesday night for a three-game set. Starters TBA.

About Tom Bridge

Tom Bridge is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Nationals. Tom has been in love with baseball since he was 10. He is a founding editor of We Love DC, where he covered the Nationals and Capitals as a credentialed writer for four seasons. He grew up as an Oakland Athletics fan in the Central Valley in California, where he learned to appreciate Bill King, Mark McGwire and even Tony LaRussa. By day, he is a partner at Technolutionary LLC, where he handles IT operations. He cannot abide the Cardinals. You can follow Tom on Twitter @TomBridgeDSP.

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