Jul 12, 2014, 11:18 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: A high-profile pitching matchup produced a low-scoring game, though neither Stephen Strasburg nor Cole Hamels would likely have called this one of their best outings of the season.
Strasburg carried a shutout into the sixth but couldn’t finish that inning after his pitch count skyrocketed to 117. Hamels, meanwhile, gave up a quick run in the bottom of the first, and then had to try to pitch himself out of trouble for most of the night, ultimately done in by Jayson Werth’s 2-run homer in the sixth.
Up 3-2, the Nationals turned to their bullpen to try to close this one out. Jerry Blevins escaped a sixth-inning jam. Drew Storen did the same in the seventh. Tyler Clippard was one out away from preserving the lead in the eighth, but he allowed a 1-out single to Cody Asche, then walked Cameron Rupp, then served up an RBI single to Ben Revere, leaving the game knotted 3-3 heading to the ninth.
The Nationals couldn’t get the go-ahead run home against Jonathan Papelbon, but they finally did it against Jake Diekman in the 10th. With two on and two out, Ryan Zimmerman singled up the middle , bringing Denard Span home. Werth scored moments later on a wild pitch, giving Rafael Soriano some cushion for closing out the game in the bottom of the inning. Thus, the Nationals kept pace with the Braves and now head into the final day of the first half of the season still tied for first place.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The Nationals had been abysmal in key situations at the plate all night. When Adam LaRoche struck out with two on and one out in the 10th, they were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. But the Zimmerman came to the rescue in impressive fashion. Down 0-2 to flamethrower Diekman, he smoked a 100-mph fastball back up the middle, bringing home Span with the run that gave the Nats a much-needed, extra-inning victory
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: How to describe this start by Strasburg? It started off kind of shaky, with five of the Phillies’ first 10 batters reaching base, yet none of them scoring. It turned dominant, with Strasburg retiring nine batters in a row at one point, four of them via strikeout. And then it turned ugly late, with the right-hander unable to even complete the sixth inning. The key moment came with two outs in the sixth and Strasburg’s pitch count over 100. With a chance to get out of the jam and keep the Nationals’ 3-2 lead intact, he walked the .200-hitting Cameron Rupp to prolong the inning. Matt Williams decided that was enough and had to summon Jerry Blevins to get out of it. Strasburg departed, having pitched well enough to put himself in line for the win, but something about this start just didn’t feel complete.
KEY STAT: Jayson Werth had six home runs in his first 349 plate appearances this season. He now has five in his last 39.
UP NEXT: The series (and the first half of the season) concludes Sunday afternoon when Tanner Roark faces Kyle Kendrick. First pitch is at 1:35 p.m.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
TUE: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
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SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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