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Instant analysis: Nats 4, Pirates 3

Aug 16, 2014, 9:57 PM EST

AP AP

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Seeking only their second 5-game winning streak of the season, the Nationals took the field tonight knowing they’d need a quality start from struggling Gio Gonzalez to have a good chance. They got neither that nor much of anything at the plate against lefty Jeff Locke, putting themselves in a 3-0 hole late. But then, lightning struck and suddenly a frustrating evening turned joyous for the home team and its sellout crowd.

Gonzalez once again battled, throwing 102 pitches in only five innings and giving up three runs in the top of the third to put his teammates in a hole. Not that it would have mattered much had the left-hander showed better form. The Nationals lineup was held to four singles and two walks by Locke, who also was aided by some sterling work by his defense to quash potential rallies.

Down to their final six outs, though, the Nationals stormed back to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth thanks to an RBI single by Kevin Frandsen (his third hit of the night) and a 2-run homer by Adam LaRoche that was lined just over the fence in right field. Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos then combined for the game-winning rally in the bottom of the ninth, with Harper drawing a leadoff walk, taking second on a wild pitch and then scoring on Ramos’ ground-rule double to deep right field that gave the Nats their fifth straight win.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Shut down all night by the Pirates pitching staff, the Nationals finally got it going in the eighth, a rally kickstarted by Michael Taylor’s speed and Denard Span’s bat control. Taylor drew a leadoff walk and then showed off his speed going first-to-third on Span’s single through the right side hole. That set the stage for Frandsen, who blooped a run-scoring single to right that brought the sellout crowd back to life. Anthony Rendon nearly killed the momentum when he grounded into a double play, but LaRoche stole it right back with his clutch homer to tie the game. It was the red-hot first baseman’s fifth homer in his last 10 games, and it came at a most opportune moment.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: If there was any hope that Gonzalez could put to rest questions after three straight shaky starts, this didn’t exactly do the job. He needed 27 pitches to get through the first inning, and it only went downhill from there. The real trouble came in the third, when a 2-out walk to Russell Martin opened the door for a big inning. Starling Marte followed with an RBI double, and then Gaby Sanchez added a 2-run single on the very next pitch. To his credit, Gonzalez did manage to limit the damage to that, allowing just those three runs. But his pitch count once again soared (102 in five innings) which gave Matt Williams no choice but to turn to his overworked bullpen sooner than he preferred.

KEY STAT: Over his last two starts, totaling 9 2/3 innings, Gio Gonzalez has thrown 213 pitches.

UP NEXT: The series concludes with a rare, late-afternoon Sunday finale: Note the 5:05 p.m. start time. It’ll be Doug Fister seeking his team-leading 13th win against right-hander Edinson Volquez, seeking his 11th.

  1. Joe Seamhead - Aug 16, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    WooooooooooHooooooooo!

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 16, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    “Ghost of Steve M. – Aug 16, 2014 at 9:53 PM
    Can Wilson Ramos be the hero here?”

    That was with Bryce on 1st base. Summoner!

    • nats128 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:01 PM

      Good call!

    • rayvil01 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:03 PM

      Some teams feel it, Ghost. I think this one is starting to.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:06 PM

        Isn’t it great how the Newbie got that walk to get the rally going.

      • rayvil01 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:09 PM

        Yes it was. I think great things are in his future. But great teams get contributions from everyone.

  3. David Proctor - Aug 16, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    Thing are starting to feel special.

    • npb99 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:15 PM

      Well put.

    • scmargenau - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:20 PM

      Yup. Games we would loose earlier we are now winning.

  4. nats128 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:03 PM

    I lost track of time. I thought it was the 8th inning. I was thinking of who was to close after I knew Bryce was going to score.

    Bullpen saved!

    • manassasnatsfan - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:15 PM

      It is OK. A win is a win.

      • nats128 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:33 PM

        I would have been more excited after the passed ball thinking a walkoff could happen. I was worrying about who was going to close the game if the Nats got the lead.

  5. manassasnatsfan - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:04 PM

    Stammen, no win, and no hold, but what a 3 innings. Thorton. Thank you Yankees.

    Come in Gio I will be there Tuesday. Pitch better.

  6. David Proctor - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:06 PM

    Denard Span said yesterday that this team was hungry and smelling the finish line. You can tell.

  7. Joe Seamhead - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:06 PM

    Ramos got the game winner RBI, but ALR’s defensive gem followed by his 2 run homer was also the hero. Good AB’s by Taylor, Span and Frandsen, too.

    • David Proctor - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:09 PM

      Don’t forget the work Stammen did!

  8. Uncle Atom - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:10 PM

    “We had ‘em all the way!”

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:10 PM

    Ramos the entire at-bat with Bryce on 2nd went into oppo mode. It takes a special hitter to do that. He got the bonus, the walk-off hit but made sure he would at least get Bryce to 3rd.

    Very impressive.

    • rayvil01 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:17 PM

      Agreed. Hope Desi was taking notes. That shift they had on him was revealing.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:30 PM

        rayvil, few hitters can do it and most can’t. Ramos and Werth can take inside pitches and inside-out them to go oppo. Any MLBer can take an outside pitch and go the other way but few have the bat control to shoot it the other way on inside pitches.

      • zmunchkin - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:22 PM

        FP made that exact point early in Wilson’s AB – he was the best guy to have at the plate if you wanted the ball hit to right behind the runner. The fact that it was not only to right, but a ground-rule double made it sweeter!

      • unkyd59 - Aug 17, 2014 at 7:57 AM

        Ghost, we’ve see Tony go inside-out a few times…speaking of bat control…

  10. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    Maybe David has a theory on Stammen only throwing 6 sliders to go with 23 fastballs.

  11. conatsguy - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    Rox game postponed. Got back in time for the bottom of the 8th.

    Looked like a route to me :-)

    • adcwonk - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:03 PM

      Route 66?

  12. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    “Joe Seamhead – Aug 16, 2014 at 10:06 PM
    Ramos got the game winner RBI, but ALR’s defensive gem followed by his 2 run homer was also the hero. Good AB’s by Taylor, Span and Frandsen, too.”

    Very much a team win. Stammen was shutdown and Thornton carved them up. Solid defense and Desi kept the line moving going 1-3 plus a walk and Bryce was on base twice and scored the winning run.

  13. manassasnatsfan - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    They won it despite Wassen…… I am sure wrote them off after the third.

    I like winning just to prove him wrong as much as any other reason.

  14. Section 222 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    Just want to record for posterity Mark’s question to MW: “Matt, when along that last two innings did you kind of feel like the flip was switched?” Awesome.

    • scmargenau - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:23 PM

      Lol. Heard that. Was that mark?

      • Section 222 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:27 PM

        Yup.

      • Mark Zuckerman - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:27 PM

        Guilty as charged. The worst part is, I didn’t even realize it til someone told me on Twitter!

    • natsfan1a - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      Who says there’s no accountability in the media? I thought it was Kolko, so good for Mark for owning up to it. That’s what I call a standup guy. ;-)

      • Section 222 - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:01 PM

        We kid because we love. I’m sure he knows that.

      • natsfan1a - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:44 PM

        Yes, and I was kidding as well.

        “We kid because we love. I’m sure he knows that.”

  15. Section 222 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:20 PM

    Mark asked the question about Gio’s shoulder. Any concern any more. MW said categorically no. Velocity is fine. He’s not complaning about any pain.

    He did mention that establishing his curveball command early is important. Otherwise the other team can just discount that pitch.

    • nats128 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:37 PM

      David says theres a problem with Gio physically. Theres a problem. I cant image how ugly it would have been if McCutcheon was in the 3 hole tonight.

  16. manassasnatsfan - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:21 PM

    Kimbrel pitches top of 9th 2 outs 1 on. 17 pitches so far.

  17. manassasnatsfan - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:24 PM

    Norris forgot to swing. Two fast balls down the middle and just watched them.

    21 pitches.

    Well the A’s sure don’t look like the team that whipped us.

    • Section 222 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:26 PM

      He forgot to swing? Really?

  18. Section 222 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    Thank goodness MW didn’t have Wilson bunt in that situation…

  19. stoatva - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:31 PM

    Trout 0 for 4 yet again, with 2 Ks. Average down to .289.

  20. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    Best win of the season. Better than the Harper walkoff. With Gonzalez starting — and living up to form — the lamps were not burning brightly but Span LaRoche and Ramos are being consistent — consistently. And there were vital contributions from the seldom-celebrated Stammen and the afterthoughts, Fransden and Taylor. They have enough stars, and enough contributors backing up the stars, to go a long way. After the Pirates took their best shot in two close games, Volquez might just as well phone it in tomorrow.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:49 PM

      Against a very good team which makes it that much better.

  21. Joe Seamhead - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    Thanks for nothing A’s.

    • nats128 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:38 PM

      +1

  22. natsfan1a - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    P-Nats game was fun, although we didn’t run into Michele there.

    Got out in time to listen to the Nats game on the car radio. Heard ALR’s defensive play, followed by his dinger on offense. Listened while Thornton retired the side, and pulled into the driveway just as Harper walked. My husband’s like, “you’re going to run downstairs and turn on the tv, aren’t you?” I’m like, “uh, yeah, are you coming?” He was a little late getting downstairs (I had a good jump), so I had to replay Wilson’s AB for him (he came downstairs after he heard me cheering). Nice way to finish off the night. Must have been awesome to see in person.

    • NatsLady - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:19 AM

      It was. Real excitement at the game. Good team, unbelievable defense, I counted three robberies. Clint Hurdle seems like a good manager but he doesn’t have the tools right now, injuries are taking their toll (of course we spotted them Zim and Werth, but they spotted us McCutchen–and Walker isn’t healthy either).

    • unkyd59 - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:02 AM

      “I had a good jump”, lol!

  23. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:43 PM

    This is how bad the homeplate ump was tonight. In the 2-2 count, Watson throws a perfect strike 3 against Michael A, only it’s called a ball. The 3-2 pitch was certainly a ball. Since MASN didn’t show it, I had no idea how good that 2-2 pitch was. Lucky for the Nats that they got one when they needed it the most.

    • Another Tyler - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:06 PM

      Bring on the robots.

    • zmunchkin - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      That pitch was barely on the black. It should have been a strike. But the HP ump was pretty bad and there were lots of calls like that worked against both the pitchers and the batters.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:21 AM

        It got black and plate and was a strike all night long. Luck be a lady last night. The ump sucked regardless.

  24. David Proctor - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    If the Brewers hold on, we will have the best record in the NL.

  25. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:52 PM

    I also liked that this time Matt Williams yanked Gio at the end of the 5th and didn’t try to force the issue to bat him and bring him out for the 6th and try to squeeze another batter or 2 out of him.

    This has been something I have debated over and over again. You gain so little by trying to squeeze a fraction of an inning from a starter rather than handing a clean inning to a reliever, and like I said Matt was rewarded by this. 3 run deficit turns into a slick 1 run win.

    • NatsLady - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:20 AM

      Gio was at 107 pitches. No brainer. Other times the starter has been in the 80s. Not so easy to take out a starter with 87 or 90 pitches when you could get another inning.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:57 AM

        I agree with NL on this. Tonight was an easy call. Many of the others no so.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 17, 2014 at 9:08 AM

        Check again on Gio’s start on August 10th. That was the great debate. I thought he should have been pulled after 4 innings and near 100 pitches. MW brought him out for the 5th and he had to be pulled anyway. He had little left and the net gain was saving the bullpen 2 batters.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 17, 2014 at 9:11 AM

        My point is I think MW learned. In the Aug 10th game it was a 1-1 tie against the Barves and he didn’t pull Gio and the 1-1 game turned into a 2-1 deficit and an eventual loss. In this game it was already a 3-0 deficit that could have gotten much worse and MW was rewarded by this decision.

  26. breakbad1 - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:08 PM

    This was a dream game. Like 2012 but even better. Ramos is a beast.

    I don’t know who flipped around tv to see the amazing Tennessee-Rhode Island LLWS game. It was really an awesome last inning.

    Turn on ESPN at 11pm and see almost all stories are about meaningless NFL preseason games. I swear it’s like the Nats do not exist to ESPN or MLB Network.

  27. wearenationals - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:10 PM

    A good night of baseball…The Nats win! The P-Nats win! And my boys got their Jayson Werth Wolf-a-rine! Waaahooo!!!

    • natsfan1a - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      Good work. It was a fun night at the P-Nats.

  28. letswin3 - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:14 PM

    I’m sure you’ve all complimented ALR and The Buffalo already, and they deserve it. But I also want to recognize Harper for that walk he took in the 9th inning ….. I just got a feeling that he maybe turned a corner and matured about a year in THAT ONE AT BAT. Time will, or course, tell, but he seemed to be thinking through that entire at bat like a more seasoned player. And the intelligent hustle that he made in the top of that inning in trying to catch that foul ball also gave me a warm feeling. I’m thinkin that he’s about to start delivering on the enormous talent that’s so obvious.

    • zmunchkin - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:24 PM

      +1

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:32 PM

      Bryce has to keep recognizing that pitchers will try to get him to expand to swing at balls out of the zone and he wouldn’t do that in this particular AB and he earned the walk. That wasn’t a pitch around and in fact, that 3-1 pitch caught plenty of plate to put him into that 3-2 count which frustrated Bryce too many times this year. Prior to this, Bryce had K’d in 11 of his 31 plate appearances and was at a 50% K rate in 3-2 counts (11 out of 22 ABs).

      So yes, this was big if he can keep improving upon this. Again, take what the game gives you. Barry Bonds perfected that.

      • letswin3 - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:38 PM

        Exactly!!! That’s what I saw too. He didn’t get frustrated, but instead became resolute that he would reach base somehow …. if it had to be a walk, so be it. Even a few months ago he might have become ticked and swung at the next pitch, regardless of where it was. Of course the older Michael Taylor also took a nice walk tonight …. I like that kid too.

      • natinalsgo - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:46 PM

        I wouldn’t say I’m shocked by those stats and one of the areas of improvement for Bryce is taking the walks when the pitcher isn’t throwing strikes.

        Very good AB.

    • NatsLady - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:25 AM

      I was WILLING him not to back-talk the ump and get ejected when he got called back. I was yelling at him out loud from sec 307. Then he did walk. Then I was telling Ramos, READ MY LIPS–no double play. Then the Wild Pitch. Not sure what Hurdle could do at that point. I would be curious, I know Watson and Wilson pitched yesterday, I don’t know what their usage in the previous series, maybe they were tired?

      The key was getting to Watson, who is their Tyler Clippard.

  29. Joe Seamhead - Aug 17, 2014 at 1:09 AM

    Taylor’s walk, as Ghost showed, had more than a little luck involved with a poor call by the ump on ball three.By rights, that could have easily have been his 8th K is his last 11 AB’s.

    • natinalsgo - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:26 AM

      Very fortunate. That inside fastball was being given all night and even off the plate. Just ask Rendon. That pitch to Taylor was painted and he was given a 2nd chance and got it.

      I think what is unfortunate is that the TV crew didn’t put up the ball/strike chart to show it.

      Speaking of balls and strikes, why was Bryce running to 1st on that 3-1 pitch that was clearly a strike. That was almost center cut. It seemed to get the pitcher out of rhythm and he did walk. What do they say about leadoff walks? THEY COME BACK TO KILL YOU!

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