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A test of character turns into a wild win

Jun 6, 2011, 2:30 AM EDT

US Presswire photo
Michael Morse is congratulated after hitting a grand slam in the top of the 11th.

PHOENIX — Five batters hit by pitch. Two pitchers and two managers ejected. A rookie catcher purposely taking his time around the bases on a home run to rub it into the opposing dugout. A titanic collapse in the bottom of the ninth. A grand slam in the top of the 11th. A combined 341 pitches thrown by a combined 12 pitchers.

How do you sum that one up?

“Awesome,” Rick Ankiel said, then added: “Since we won.”

Indeed, the Nationals had every reason to feel good about themselves after pulling off a wild, 9-4 victory in 11 innings over the Diamondbacks on Sunday, a 4-hour marathon that featured enough twists and turns to fill a week’s worth of games.

But had they lost this one, had they not rallied after blowing a late 4-run lead, the vibe inside the visitors clubhouse would have been as low as its been at any point this season.

“I think [you'd be] a little more pissed off, yeah,” said Ankiel, whose bases-loaded walk scored the go-ahead run and preceded Michael Morse’s clinching grand slam. “A little more mad, absolutely. There were some fireworks back and forth, and they come back and put an
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  1. Anonymous8 - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:54 AM

    Mark Z., earlier you wrote: at 5:55 p.m. — Payback. Marquis drills Upton in the back with one out and one on in the bottom of the sixth, and he's immediately ejected.Now on CSN you wrote:The back story: Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton was hit by three pitches in the series' first two games. None appeared to be intentional, but there was reason to wonder whether there may be retribution at some point.PAYBACK means it was intentional which you may have thought at the time. Did you have a change of opinion after something else you saw or was it what Riggleman said or something else?Change in opinions are fine with me, just curious, thanks.Also, is Stammen starting now in Gorzo's spot or a bullpen guy?

  2. Anonymous - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:54 AM

    Was it written in less than 5000 words? ;)

  3. Drew8 - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:55 AM

    Not to be outdone, Chris Marrero hit his own salami and knocked in 5 for Syracuse. In 53 games, Marrero now has 6 homers, 27 RBI and a .278 batting average.Now, about those draft picks… We're about 19 hours from the three B's — Bubba, Bauer and Boras.Which way will the Nats go? This ougghta be fun.

  4. Anonymous - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:56 AM

    Anonymous8, Stammen is likely starting in place of Maya. I just finished listening to Randy Knorr's weekly update. He said that Stammen was sent down specifically to start … not to do middle relief. He said Stammen was one of his workhorses that went deep into games. That he thought he probably belonged in the majors out of ST.

  5. Anonymous - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:58 AM

    Now, about those draft picks… We're about 19 hours from the three B's — Bubba, Bauer and Boras.I think it will depend on who is left. It looks like KC will draft Starling at #5. He's a local product for them … and considered by many to be the best athlete in the draft.

  6. Anonymous8 - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:04 AM

    Anon at 10:56PM, why keep Maya on the roster then. Send him back for Ballester.This is big news if that is the case.

  7. Grandstander - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:10 AM

    Great gamer as always Mark. Love the Ankiel "sum up" quote. Kicker in the 3rd graph! Just real quick editorial note, 9th graph, "the Ramos" (though that's kinda a cool nickname).Interesting side note in all of this, the Nats are now 6-3 in extra inning games this year, including an incomprehensible 5-2 record in extras on the road. While being the complete opposite of clutch with the bat, we seem to become a different team after the ninth. But seriously, after that momentum switch in the bottom of the ninth, who else thought this game was lost? I was SURE it was just a matter of time. But we pulled it out, again. Very intriguing about this team's mental fortitude.

  8. Drew8 - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:13 AM

    If K.C. picks Bubba at No. 5, they should be wary of injury concerns. A quick Web search reveals the following:"Royal Starlings are reported to be particularly susceptible to gapeworm."(Nice coloration, tho…)

  9. Anonymous - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:14 AM

    Anon at 10:56PM, why keep Maya on the roster then. Send him back for Ballester.Both Zimmerman and Gorzelanny are about to come off the DL it seems. Maya will likely be sent back when that happens … its got to happen soon because Syracuse is now short 2 starters and JD Martin can manage for one but not 2. Unless they decide to promote Peacock. And Harris said they want to see Peacock in AA a bit longer.As for Balester, right now Ryan Mattheus is pitching better and is considered the ace of the bullpen. Plus Cuban fireballer Hassan Pena is now on the roster.Balester may be involved in an upcoming trade. We'll have to see how it all turns out during the next two months.

  10. Eugene in Oregon - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:47 AM

    Notice in the box score that Storen got a 'hold' for his awful performance. This is not to beat on him (I think the world of him and his potential), but rather to note the absurdity of giving a reliever a 'hold' even though he allowed three earned runs, the third of which effectively blew the save. But the way the rules/definitions are written, Burnett got both the 'blown save' and the win. Baseball wisely ditched the GWRBI stat after a failed experiment and needs to do something similar with the 'hold' (or, at a minimum, give the official scorer the discretion to withhold it in situations similar to today's).

  11. Neal - Jun 6, 2011 at 4:26 AM

    Anonymous8, if you look at the probable pitchers on the Nats website, you'll see that Maya is scheduled to pitch the 3rd game of the SF series and Riggleman pretty much confirmed that.

  12. Neal - Jun 6, 2011 at 4:31 AM

    Anonymous 11:14 PM, Riggleman said recently that Gorz is going to pitch some rehab games first. It will be a little while longer before he returns. Maya will get at least one more start, possibly two.

  13. Neal - Jun 6, 2011 at 4:33 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Mark Zuckerman - Jun 6, 2011 at 5:00 AM

    Anonymous8 said… Mark Z., earlier you wrote: at 5:55 p.m. — Payback. Marquis drills Upton in the back with one out and one on in the bottom of the sixth, and he's immediately ejected. Now on CSN you wrote: The back story: Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton was hit by three pitches in the series' first two games. None appeared to be intentional, but there was reason to wonder whether there may be retribution at some point. PAYBACK means it was intentional which you may have thought at the time. Did you have a change of opinion after something else you saw or was it what Riggleman said or something else? Change in opinions are fine with me, just curious, thanks. Also, is Stammen starting now in Gorzo's spot or a bullpen guy?After the game, Riggleman and Marquis were adamant that the Upton plunking was not intentional. Watching it live, it sure looked suspicious to me. But their rationale — that it was a 1-0 game and Upton represented the go-ahead run — led me to at least consider their side of it.As for Stammen, Riggleman said yesterday he was brought here to pitch out of the bullpen and that Maya remains scheduled to start Wednesday in San Francisco. That could change, but there's been no indication yet of that.

  15. Mark Zuckerman - Jun 6, 2011 at 5:03 AM

    Anonymous said…Was it written in less than 5000 words? ;)Actually, I managed to cover it all in a mere 1,136 words. Still considerably more than I would normally need for a game story.

  16. Grandstander - Jun 6, 2011 at 5:17 AM

    I actually believe it was unintentional, but if they said it was intentional, they would each be fined significantly, so I don't really think "their word" is meaningful. But I buy the excuse that the game was too close for that BS. Why in the world would you put the tying run on 2nd there?As for the Stammen/Maya conundrum, no reason to give your opponent a heads up on who they'll be facing, but I think it's clear Stammen will start the matchup. Both of these headcases could maybe combine into one good pitcher, each going 3 innings, and preventing the inevitable blowup.

  17. Anonymous - Jun 6, 2011 at 5:21 AM

    I could be wrong … but based on Knorr's recent podcast, Riggleman's much less than ringing endorsement of Maya … agreeing pretty much with every criticism thrown his way by interviewers … his appearance of an almost total lack of confidence coinciding with the sudden recall of Stammen.I'd be willing to be real money on Stammen penciled in to start and not Maya.

  18. Nattydread - Jun 6, 2011 at 5:34 AM

    Grandstander said… But seriously, after that momentum switch in the bottom of the ninth, who else thought this game was lost? I was SURE it was just a matter of time. But we pulled it out, again. Very intriguing about this team's mental fortitude._______Nice to see that they pulled this off, especially as hot as Arizona has been! In my time zone it was 2:30AM when Storen imploded, so admittedly I bailed!Waking up to see a Morse grand slam gamer that steals a split — very nice! This type of stick-with-it win does a lot for morale of both the team and fans. (And you have to think the guys in the dugout had heard about Zimm's double and triple in Hagarstown!)Zim probably is back BEFORE San Diego!

  19. Neal - Jun 6, 2011 at 5:50 AM

    Had to stop watching the game right when Marquis was getting tossed and Clip was coming in……had to do the good husband thing, it's my wife's birthday and away we went. We had a great time BTW and my wife's actually starting to watch baseball with me! So we come home (not having checked the score while we were out) only to find out that all hell had broken loose. Morse the Horse hits another freak'n grand slam, a 3 run banger by "I'll throw you out if you move" Ramos, Clip, Burnett and Hot-Rod were great and Ankiel managed to take a run producing walk instead of striking out to end the inning! And to top it all off, the pinch hitters did their job and McLaren apparently had enough sense not to use Matt Stairs. Last year with men on 1st and 2nd, 1 man out, a pitcher getting tossed in top of the 6th while the team hangs on to a one run lead, the team would have imploded! This year's team has character and "true grit" .awesome! Go Nats!

  20. Neal - Jun 6, 2011 at 5:57 AM

    Anonymous1:21 AM, if you look at the probable pitchers on the Nats website, you'll see that Maya is scheduled to pitch the 3rd game of the SF series and Riggleman pretty much confirmed that. If Maya wasn't going to pitch, they would have already sent him back down and brought up Balester.

  21. dale - Jun 6, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    The next time we play Arizona in August there will definitely be a backstory working. It will be interesting to see how they pitch to (or at) Ramos, Werth and Espinosa.

  22. masnstinks - Jun 6, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    There were so many crazy things in the game yesterday that it's easy to lose sight of some of the small things that were good — Clippard looked awesome – I love his high heat! JZimm coming in and putting down the bunt, Bernie just hustling all the way, even Ankiel showing very unusual patience — all contributed to this win. I was very annoyed with Upton's European soccer act, though – quite tacky. And they had the gall to be annoyed with Ramos. I also enjoyed seeing the fire from some of our players and the grittiness from Ramos. Zim's interview after the Suns game was also quite interesting , along with the game story – it appears that he is working to improve his game(!!) and feels that this situation has helped him improve his character(!!!) — we are so lucky to have him as part of our franchise!

  23. NatsJack in Florida - Jun 6, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    I was flipping back and forth between MASN and the D-Backs feed during the game yesterday and have to point out that Mark Grace was highly critical of McLarren for taking out Storen. I felt like it was the right move but they made it sound as though the move would be damaging to Storens psyche….. give me a break…The only thing damaging to Storen's psyche was hitting his spot and not getting the call from Ron Darling. It didn't help that Ramos was set up off the plate. I see Pudge doing this all the time, setting up with the target clearly out of the strike zone. Sometimes the ump calls a strike just because the guy hits his target.Just another one of those "baseball only" things that occurs in sports.

  24. natsfan1a - Jun 6, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    Agreed re. taking Storen out, NatsJack (but I think you meant to type Gary rather than Ron Darling – don't want to dis our former color guy ;-)).

  25. NatsJack in Florida - Jun 6, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    You're correct. I meant Ron Darlings brother, Gary.

  26. Anonymous8 - Jun 6, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    Mark Z., thanks so much for the explanations. I think Maya becomes starter by reliever if that is a term. Have Maya go 3 to 4 innings and immediately bring in Stammen. Unfortunately, I think like said last week the Nats have many good 50 pitch arms and calling them starters is a "stretch" (pun intended).

  27. MicheleS - Jun 6, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    Mark.. excellent recap of the nuttiest game of the season. Any blow back from the AZ reporters about the plunking and the Ramos trott? Matt Williams looked like he was going to have a stroke in the dugout when that happened.

  28. RickH - Jun 6, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    One thing that may be overlooked in all this was that Burnett did pretty well. If that ball had been hit a little harder in the 9th, we would have had the game-ending double play. And he did pretty well in the 10th too.

  29. Manassas Nats Fan - Jun 7, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    @ pool Reporters. My question would be why would any team put the go ahead run on base intentionally. Did they ask Gary Darling the obvious follow up question?Ihave no doubt that the pitch hit him on purpose. He wanted inside, but not hitting the batter. I don;t think Morse was hit intentionally either. I take the game situations as an important part of deciding. Gary Darling is a mind reader of a different flavor if he ignores games and score situation.

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