Aug 17, 2014, 8:52 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Pennant races in Major League Baseball are supposed to be thrilling, they are supposed to keep fans at the edge of their seats. Wins often do not come easy, and losses can be tough to swallow.
Few games, however, can produce the extreme ups and downs of the Nationals’ 6-5 win over the Pirates in 11 innings on Sunday evening.
This one featured a defensive disaster by both teams, as errors initially gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead in the sixth inning, then returned the favor to the Nationals, who led 4-2 heading into the ninth before closer Rafael Soriano blew his fifth save of the season.
That all set up the biggest hit of the night, a walk-off sac fly by Scott Hairston – who was pinch-hitting – to score Jayson Werth from third base. Werth had been out a week with AC joint inflammation in his right shoulder, but came through with a leadoff double to start the 11th.
Soriano entered the ninth for his 30th save of the year before he lost his grip on a 2-2 pitch that nailed Starling Marte in the back with no outs. A wild pitch would later score Marte and get the Pirates within one run, before Gregory Polanco hit a tw0-RBI double to right-center for the lead.
Doug Fister started the day steady once again, with a no-hit bid through four innings. But as a groundball pitcher, Fister sometimes has to rely heavily on the defense behind him. They would not come through on this particular day, and allowed the Pirates to break a scoreless tie in the sixth inning. The rally started with Ian Desmond’s 19th error of the season and was aided by an Anthony Rendon throwing error to home plate during a botched rundown.
The Nationals would fire back with a run in the bottom of the sixth, and then three more in the seventh, the latter aided by Pirates errors. Then came Soriano’s forgettable ninth inning.
Washington would tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, as Werth pinch-hit with one out and walked. Werth then moved to third on a single to right field by Denard Span. Asdrubal Cabrera then brought Werth home on a single to right field.
That pushed the game to extra innings and set up the Nats’ sixth walk-off win of 2014 and their second in as many nights. It also marked a three-game sweep and a season-high six-game winning streak.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The Nationals took the lead back in the seventh thanks to defensive mistakes by Pittsburgh. Michael Taylor led off by reaching first on a Edinson Volquez pitch that hit him on the left hand. Kevin Frandsen and Span then followed with singles to load the bases.
The Nats would bring two runs home on a throwing error by Russell Martin. Martin threw wide of home plate on a Cabrera groundball, allowing both Taylor and Frandsen to score. Span then came home on a Rendon groundball to third thrown too high by Pedro Alvarez.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Though Fister left the game with the Nats trailing, he was sharp as always. Fister began the day perfect through 2 1/3 and didn’t surrender a hit until Alvarez singled to lead off the fifth inning. He gave up two runs in the sixth, but neither were charged as earned.
Fister would finish with seven innings, five hits, one walk, five strikeouts, two runs (none earned) on 97 pitches. He has now pitched at least seven innings in seven of his last eight starts and in 12 of his 18 total outings this season.
Fister’s season ERA now stands at 2.20, fifth-best among MLB starters. Fister is, however, just short of qualifying for the official rankings. One needs at least one inning pitched per team games played. After Sunday, Fister is at 118 2/3 innings through 122 total Nats games.
KEY STAT: Fister has not allowed an earned run in 22 1/3 consecutive innings, dating back to three starts ago on Aug. 1.
UP NEXT: The Nationals continue their homestand with a four-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Game 1 will pit Jordan Zimmermann (8-5, 2.92) up against lefty Vidal Nuno (0-3, 3.92).
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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