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A well-rounded rally

Aug 17, 2014, 12:44 AM EDT

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It began innocently enough, a leadoff walk drawn by rookie Michael Taylor with the Nationals trailing the Pirates by three runs in the bottom of the eighth. The sellout crowd of 41,880 applauded the effort but hardly sensed what that plate appearance was about to trigger.

The vibe picked up more after Denard Span singled, then even more after Kevin Frandsen blooped a base hit to right, bringing Taylor home with the Nationals’ first run of the game. Then, deflation after Anthony Rendon grounded into a double play that appeared to kill whatever momentum had built up during the rally.

Up to the plate, though, stepped Adam LaRoche, and there has been no hotter bat in the Nationals’ lineup over the last two weeks. So when the veteran first baseman drilled a 1-0 pitch from All-Star lefty Tony Watson over the wall in right field, tying up a ballgame that had appeared lost only a few minutes earlier, Nationals Park roared like it hadn’t in quite some time.

“When Rochey hit that bomb,” Frandsen said, “that place was going nuts.”

Nuts enough to produce an awkward curtain call, with LaRoche coaxed out of the dugout just as Watson was throwing his next pitch to Ian Desmond.

“Shoot, I didn’t know what was going on,” LaRoche said. “Teammates down there. [Son] Drake’s down there. And guys are pushing me up on the top step. I still don’t know what happened. I take it I was a little late getting out there?”

No worries, because the biggest celebration of the night was saved for the bottom of the ninth, when Wilson Ramos completed the Nationals’ improbable rally, lofting a ground-rule double over Gregory Polanco’s head in right field to score Bryce Harper and leave that sellout crowd dancing in the aisles following the home team’s fifth straight win.

“I view this team as tenacious,” manager Matt Williams said. “They don’t give up.”

Indeed, 24 of the Nationals’ 68 wins this season have been of the come-from-behind variety, few as impressive as this one against a tough Pirates bullpen.

That it included so many contributors — six different members of the lineup either got a hit or drew a walk to make the rally possible — only added to the significance.

“We knew we were always in it,” Frandsen said. “With the guys that we have and the power that we have, there’s a chance that we can get back in it no matter what.”

The Nationals trailed 3-0 nearly the entire night, unable to get anything going against Pittsburgh lefty Jeff Locke and unable to overcome another shaky start from Gio Gonzalez. But the tide began to turn once the Nats bullpen took control of the game. Craig Stammen tossed three scoreless innings to keep the deficit at 3-0, then Matt Thornton retired the side in the top of the ninth once the game was tied, setting the stage for the final rally in the bottom of the inning.

That final rally was sparked by Harper, who once again displayed patience and poise in working the count full against lefty Justin Wilson before drawing a walk, the eighth time he has reached base in his last 20 plate appearances. Harper then turned aggressive, swiping second base after Wilson’s first pitch to Ramos got away from catcher Russell Martin.

With the winning run now on second and nobody out, Ramos understood his first priority given the situation.

“I was concentrating … just try to hit the ball the other way to move the runner,” he said. “But the thing that I did, that’s better than moving the runner.”

It certainly was. Down in the count 1-2, Ramos nonetheless smoked a high liner toward right field. It landed beyond Polanco’s reach and skipped over the fence into the Nationals’ bullpen, but Harper wasn’t entirely sure and so he kept chugging around third to score before realizing there was no play at the plate.

“I didn’t care,” he said. “I had no clue if it was over the fence, or if it was off the wall or Polanco had to get on it. I was just trying to roll as fast as I could.”

Ramos coasted into second base, where his teammate mobbed him, punching the affectionately nicknamed “Buffalo” in the gut and then dousing him.

“They can hit hard, but you don’t care in that moment,” he said. “It’s an amazing moment, an exciting day for me. And especially when [Ian Desmond] threw me the cooler with Gatorade, that was amazing.”

  1. Joe Seamhead - Aug 17, 2014 at 6:56 AM

    “A well-rounded rally” is a great description of last night’s win, Mark. Fun stuff! I love exciting baseball, especially when the Nats our on the winning end of it, Between last night, and Friday’s dramatic nail biter, there has been some exciting baseball at Nats Park so far this weekend, eh? Last night’s comeback, the overcoming a mediocre start, and the spread of contributions from so many different players against a pretty good bullpen just all made this win seem somehow especially significant, and key.

  2. Joe Seamhead - Aug 17, 2014 at 6:58 AM

    My kingdom for an edit button: when the Nats “are” on the winning end of it.

    • Section 222 - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:51 AM

      Who will rid us of this meddlesome WordPress?

      • zmunchkin - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:46 AM

        WordPress allows for contributors to edit. It just has to be configured to allow that. It does take technical skills that I suspect are not an area of Mark’s expertise. But there has to be someone behind the scenes who can do this.

    • Doc - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      What are we to Word Press Edit, and Word Press Edit to us—not a lot, me thinks!

  3. rabbit433 - Aug 17, 2014 at 7:49 AM

    Good for Ramos. It sounds like he thoroughly enjoyed himself. He deserves it!! Luckily I was at the game yesterday. Fan-Tastic!!!!!!!!

  4. laddieblahblah - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:02 AM

    Those Nats are winners. Lots of kudos all around, but especially to Frandsen and La Roche for clutch hits with RISP, and to the Buffalo, who go the game winner by playing the game right.

    Has anyone had a better waiver wire pickup than the Nats with Matt Thornton? And how about MW’s management of the pen, with a fully rested Stammen able to give the team 3 scoreless and an equally rested Thornton able to nail down the top of the 9th. And Frandsen made Matt look like a genius for plugging him in, in LF and in the 2-slot, when he got the ball rolling by driving in the Nats 1st run, and going 3 for 4 on the night.

    And soon, maybe today, they will get Werth back.

    • rayvil01 - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:27 AM

      Was reading over on Pittsburgh Post Gazette this morning. Lots of grousing that they didn’t pick up anything at the trade deadline, don’t care for Nix, and how could they let LaRoche go? (although I heard all Friday night that he supposedly did nothing while there.)

      One commenter; “What was clear is that we were playing a team driven to win.” Nice for the Nats to be that team.

      • natsfan1a - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:12 AM

        Eh, he gets booed lustily whenever the Nats play there. Don’t know whether that might cause him to up his game against Pittsburgh.

        “and how could they let LaRoche go? (although I heard all Friday night that he supposedly did nothing while there.)”

    • natinalsgo - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:39 AM

      laddie, they shouldn’t even think about bringing Werth back until he feels 100%. Usually the cortisone shot is money after 3 days. The fact he still feels tender could mean it didn’t work as well as it does for some.

  5. NatsLady - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    Moral: Don’t walk the leadoff guy (Taylor and Harper).

    • rayvil01 - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:24 AM

      The most sure-fired road to ruin is a leadoff walk. I cringe when one of our guys does it.

  6. wearenationals - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    We missed the game as we were at the Pfitz last night. We immediately turn the game on in the car radio, disappointed the Nats were still trailing 3-0 in the 8th. But then ALR rips it to the Nats bullpen and our boys started getting loud! And when the Buffalo hit the walk-off RBI double andCharlie screams “Bang! zoom!” We just went mad crazy in the car. What a moment. We can only imagine what it was like at the Park. I just finished watching the rally on MLB.tv this AM. Wow! Great to see the game all over again, but hearing on the radio will be a great memory for the boys and me.

    • Section 222 - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:53 AM

      Seems like quite a few Insiders went to the P-Nats game last night. Was there a bobblehead giveaway or something?

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

      It was a fun night at the Pfitz. A well played game overall and it was scout/camper night, so the place was rocking. I think those kids may have broken the noise-o-meter.

      Sec 222, yeah, I think there *was* some kind of giveaway. I think it was a wolverine or something. Why would anybody want a wolverine? I hear they can be kind of nasty. Maybe there weren’t any badgers available. What? Oh. Never mind. Plus, it was Star Wars night, and there were the usual weekend fireworks. Oh, and food trucks. Oh, and a good ballgame. Interesting item: Rick “the Arm” Ankiel will be inducted into the P-Nats Hall of Fame on August 23. We’ll be at the Wash Nats game that day so won’t get to see him.

      • wearenationals - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:24 AM

        It’s not just a Wolf-a-rine. It’s a Jayson Werth wolf-a-rine. It’s awesome!

      • natsfan1a - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:44 AM

        It is indeed awesome. I figured 222 was kidding us, as they’ve been promoting the heck out of P-Nats giveaways on the Nats broadcasts. :-)

  7. natinalsgo - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:51 AM

    Not sure if this has been discussed here. What do you do with Gio. He is killing the bullpen. Stammen is unavailable now for a few days.

    Why isn’t Detwiler being used. Blevins and Detwiler are the only fresh arms in the bullpen.

    • Section 222 - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:59 AM

      Killjoy. The ‘pen is there to be used. I think MW was more lucky than good yesterday with Stammen’s great outing masking the unavailability of both Clip and Sori, and making it unnecessary to use Drew. Yes, Stammen is unavailable for a few days. That’s what happens when you lose a long man. But Det is fresh if Fister lays an egg today. Not likely I know, but at least there’s someone who can go if it happens.

      I’d say we dodged a bullet. The walkoff in the 9th was the cherry on top. If the game had gone to extras it would have been ugly.

  8. realdealnats - Aug 17, 2014 at 9:36 AM

    That’s the way you draw a rally up! Just got off a 10 hour road trip driving south on 95 from the Cape and walked in to see enough innings to really appreciate forcing Lock out of the game and then dinging their BP.

    Listen, does anyone else cringe and worry when you see guys jump on the Buffalo and then when he jumps in the air to bump someone? All I think is wow don’t come down wrong on the hammy or knee. I know it’s good to let your feelings out and all but…

    • natsfan1a - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:18 AM

      Yes, I was cringing as I watched. (Hey! Don’t pound on the Buffalo!)

      • natsfan1a - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        Of course, I was cheering, too, so there’s that. (As previously noted, we listened to the late innings of the Nats game on the radio as we drove home from the Pfitz. Got home just in time to run downstairs and turn on the tv after Harper’s walk.)

    • Section 222 - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      I definitely cringed when I saw him and Span jumping to bump each other. Please, take care of that Buffalo. He’s a rare breed.

      Loved the postgame interview with him. He was a happy guy and he deserves it more than anyone else.

  9. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    It’s time to stop regarding Gonzalez as a “starting pitcher.” He “starts” but he’s really Miguel Batista, stealing innings from the bullpen, except he enters the game in the first inning after it starts on a sour note with the ending of the national anthem. His post-game self-justification last night was pathetic. My vision is Gonzalez watching the World Series on side-by-side stools with Tony Bosch in a Boca Raton bar, after the Nationals decide they’d rather have an extra RH relief pitcher on the roster for the playoffs.

    • micksback1 - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:18 AM

      what did Gio say post game?

      • Andrew Wallace - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:43 AM

        He essentially said that the “breaks aren’t going his way” and that he made good pitches but balls found holes and essentially took no responsibility for how consistently he’s sucked recently. Like….it’s not bad luck when Uve thrown 200 pitches in 8 plus innings dude. You’ve been bad and if u don’t think u need to make any adjustments because it’s BABIP luck…then were in serious trouble. I hope mccatty isn’t validating his point of view.

  10. micksback1 - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    good morning ladies, gentlemen and other gentle things.

    had a blast last night in sec 110!! what a ball game! from where I watched, it seemed Gio had ery little command on the curve, but so many good things. The atmosphere was like playoff baseball, who knows, maybe Bucs-nats in early round?

    ALR was a beats, young Michael had a great AB. My budy made a good point, Braves fans had to be bummed when the final showed 4-3 Nats, lol

    • 6ID20 - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:58 AM

      There was definitely a lot of fan to fan yelling last night. Just before LaRoche’s homer a couple of guys in 308 got into a standup finger pointing shouting match across several rows and had to be subdued by the usher. Weird thing is they were both Nats fans.

      • Section 222 - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:28 AM

        Was it 308 and Feelwood?

  11. micksback1 - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    I know typos, meant to say ALR is a beats, man I can not type

  12. micksback1 - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    beast, there

    • Candide - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      Where beast?

      • unkyd59 - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:46 AM

        lol… R.I.P Marty…

      • natsfan1a - Aug 17, 2014 at 11:20 AM

        There castle.

  13. micksback1 - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    me so happy, tickets again! I think i may have to tailgate, first at home with few cold ones and then wherever my buddy parks the car.

    what a weekend!

  14. micksback1 - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    thanks Andrew, Gio sounds frustrated. It not like he got hammered, it seems that his pitch count gets high because he is stubborn, his antics on the mound have got to stop, i believe it is all mental with Gio

    • Theophilus T.S. - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:04 PM

      “Mental” implies there’s something there to work with.

  15. realdealnats - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    I have loved Roark all along b/c he’s gritty. He’ll get in and out of jams in a game and lapse once in a while with a start but his mettle is resilient. Fister much the same but he is even smarter than he is gritty and so always seems in control of his situation, whether it’s his pitch selection, fielding his position, whatever. So these two I have never worried about. JZimm has surprised me a bit this year with his ups and downs. Sometimes I feel like he’s not even on the team. That’s me I know. But when you get to Gio and Stras–both of whom I like a lot but in different ways–you are dealing with emotional hybrids. Stras has a well-known history of getting rattled when things do not go as perfectly as he needs them to. Or as others who expect perfection from him need them to. And he’s making progress on this front I think. His fastball you have to believe is fixable too. So I think Stras will be okay. Gio needs to get a handle on his emotions as we all can see. What appears to be quite an inner dialogue does not seem to address his control issues either pitch to pitch or game to game. At least this year. My happy thought is I’d rather have these two with the great stuff they DO have–even if all their stuff isn’t good consistently–than to have a couple guys who are consistent one through three starters but with no genius to their stuff. I know this is all obvious, call me master of the explicit, but it is what I thought yesterday as I listened and then watched Gio spike that pitch count. Hopefully he’ll come around by October too. All in all, if you have to have pitching problems, this is of a kind that you can certainly deal with. As a pitcher, coach, or fan.

  16. breakbad1 - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    It was strange to me that when they interviewed Gio after the game, he said his problems were simply that grounders were going through and broken bat loopers were falling.

    He seemed disconnected from reality.

    And his mental antics on the mound are because he’s a mental player. No question about it.

  17. rabbit433 - Aug 17, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    Fifth straight game Werth hasn’t played in……Fifth straight game the Nationals won. Tell you something????!!!

    • realdealnats - Aug 17, 2014 at 4:17 PM

      rabbit–I don’t think it’s telling me what it’s telling you…

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