Sep 28, 2013, 10:37 PM EST
Game in a nutshell: In their penultimate game of the season, the Nationals got some big-time performances from a couple of guys who mostly disappointed in 2013. Dan Haren, making his final start, tossed seven scoreless innings, scattering four hits, to earn the win. Chad Tracy, starting in place of an injured Adam LaRoche, reached base three times and launched a home run. Denard Span also recorded his MLB-leading 11th triple and scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s groundout. Rafael Soriano made it interesting in the ninth but finished off the win and in the process ensured Davey Johnson will end his managerial career at least 300 games over the .500 mark. Entering tomorrow’s finale, Johnson owns a 1,372-1,1070 record.
Hitting highlight: It hasn’t been a particularly memorable season for Tracy, who struggled in his limited playing time early on and then continued to lose opportunities along the way. But given a rare chance to start tonight when LaRoche was scratched with biceps tendinitis, Tracy seized the moment. Playing in the ballpark where he began his career, the veteran infielder launched a deep flyball in the second, drilled a single in the fifth and then crushed a home run into the pool area in the seventh. Then he drew a walk in the ninth just for good measure. Tracy almost certainly won’t be returning to Washington next season, but he still believes he can be a productive big leaguer. And nights like this suggest he may be right.
Pitching highlight: This was by no means a good season for Haren, who was expected to be much better for the $13 million the Nationals gave him. But give the right-hander credit for righting his ship after a brief stint on the DL in midseason. Over his final 12 starts, Haren went 6-3 with a 3.14 ERA. And he capped it off with one of his best performances of the season: seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball against a good Arizona lineup. Haren, a former Diamondbacks ace, has always enjoyed pitching in this ballpark, and he sure looked like it tonight. After this rough year on the East Coast, Haren figures to sign with a West Coast team over the winter. His final numbers with the Nats: 10-14, 4.67 ERA over 30 starts. He also recorded a very memorable save in the 15th inning in Atlanta on Aug. 17.
Key stat: In 21 appearances since his brief demotion to Class AAA, Drew Storen has posted a 1.40 ERA.
Up next: The season (and Davey Johnson’s managerial career) concludes Sunday at 4:10 p.m. EDT. It’ll be Gio Gonzalez (trying to top 200 innings and 200 strikeouts) on the mound for the Nationals against Arizona left-hander Wade Miley (10-10, 3.63 ERA).
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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