Jun 11, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
The Nationals’ most-dominant stretch of baseball in some time had been notable for the number of blowout victories this club had been stringing together over the last two weeks.
Last night’s 2-1 win in San Francisco, then, was the outlier of the group. This was no cakewalk. This was a nip-and-tuck ballgame the likes of which the Nationals hadn’t played in awhile.
At the end of the night, tension morphed into jubilation, the Nats having secured their ninth win in 11 games to keep pace with the Braves and remain atop the NL East standings for another day.
There was plenty to rehash from this one, so here’s a breakdown of the most-significant storylines from the Nationals’ latest impressive victory…
— Doug Fister was not perfect. In fact, the right-hander walked a batter, thus putting an end to the Nats rotation’s remarkable streak of walk-less innings at 51 innings. Fister also seemed to be leaving the ball up in the zone more than usual, leading to 10 flyball outs in seven innings. Which isn’t to say he wasn’t effective. He did, after all, toss seven scoreless innings, authoring yet another quality start to extend his own run of dominance. Since his shaky debut in Oakland last month, Fister has made six starts. During that stretch, he’s now 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA, 29 strikeouts and only three walks. With each passing day, the Nationals are feeling better and better about that offseason trade they made with Detroit.
— Tyler Clippard put up yet another zero, merely his 20th consecutive scoreless appearance. Unlike many of his previous appearances during the streak, this was anything but ho-hum. Handed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth, Clippard promptly put two on with one out, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of Michael Morse. If you’ve followed Morse over the last few years — as nearly every one of you has — you know how daunting that encounter can be. Clippard, though, showed no fear in going right after the big slugger and ultimately getting him to whiff at a 3-2 fastball up and out of the strike zone. Clippard then got Gregor Blanco to fly out to center to end the inning, kill the Giants’ potential rally and for the 20th consecutive time he has taken the mound, lower his ERA, this time to 1.27.
— Rafael Soriano battled through his own jam in the bottom of the ninth. Brandon Crawford’s leadoff triple got San Francisco in business and ensured the tying run would come to the plate. Soriano, as has been the case in the past when he’s struggled, was leaving a lot of pitches up in the zone. Not to mention missing the zone altogether. He threw first-pitch balls to the first three batters he faced in this game, falling behind 2-0 to two of them. But the veteran closer did manage to clamp down when he needed to do it, inducing a groundball, a popup and a flyout to end this game and secure his 13th save in 15 tries.
— Anthony Rendon returned to the lineup after missing three games with a bruised right hand and didn’t miss a beat. Rendon went 2-for-4 and is now hitting .424 (14-for-33) with four homers over his last eight games.
— Wilson Ramos provided the biggest scare of the night in the top of the ninth, when he tried to stretch a base hit into his second double of game and wound up tweaking his hamstring in the process. Ramos had to depart the game alongside head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz, which given his history, always is cause for alarm. The good news: Ramos and manager Matt Williams told reporters afterward they don’t believe the injury is serious, certainly not as serious as the major hamstring strain last year that twice landed Ramos on the DL. Those injuries both were sustained while Ramos was running the bases. And sure enough, that’s how he got hurt last night. The Nats can only cross their fingers and hope this one isn’t significant and doesn’t turn significant at some point.
— This has absolutely nothing to do with last night’s Nats-Giants game, but if you haven’t seen it, Yoenis Cespedes’ throw to the plate last night in Anaheim was beyond remarkable. The only reaction I could muster up after watching it: Sweet. Fancy. Moses.
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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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