The Washington Nationals cashed in with two runs in a crazy seventh inning and held on to defeat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-2, before 33,774, the largest crowd at Nationals Park since Opening Day.

The Nats record stands at 27-29, six games behind division leading Atlanta.

On a warm and extremely muggy D.C. evening, pitchers labored and play dragged--the first two innings took a full hour to play--but the Nats perservered to start a six-game homestand with a win, breaking a three-game losing streak in the process.

The bottom of the seventh was the pivotal frame in this one.  The Nats used clutch hitting--and a little bit of fortune--to scratch out two runs, then had the inning cut short capriciously--and lost their shortstop in the aftermath.

Josh Willingham led off the inning with a single, and Roger Bernadina was safe at first after his fly ball to left center was dropped by Jonny Gomes after center fielder Drew Stubbs collided with him.

Ian Desmond laced a single to left field, scoring Willingham easily. Wil Nieves moved Bernadina and Desmond to second and third with a sacrifice, bringing up Willie Harris to hit in the pitcher's spot.

Harris lofted a medium deep fly ball to center  for the second out of the inning, and Bernadina was sent by third base coach Pat Listach after tagging up.  The play would have been close, but the throw by Stubbs kicked off the pitcher's mound and Bernadina scored without a play.

Reds pitcher Emilio Del Rosario (L, 1-1) picked up the errant throw at the third base line and threw to third to try to get Desmond advancing.

Desmond appeared to beat the throw but overslid the bag.  Third base umpire Paul Schrieber called Desmond safe, ruling that he kept contact with the base.  Reds manager Dusty Baker came out to argue the play and asked Schrieber to get help on the call.

The umpires convened, and after a quick discussion, crew chief "Country" Joe West ruled that Desmond did indeed lose contact with the base, and called the runner out.  Desmond jumped up and spiked his batting helmet in disgust, earning a very quick ejection by West.

It's been a rough year for West, the veteran umpire.  Earlier this season he made waves by criticizing the pace of play in games, specifically condemning the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox for their pace of play, citing all the pitches their batters take in games against each other.

"[The Reds] asked for help on it," Nats manager Jim Riggleman said of the play. "You don't see that happen too much on the bases--get help from another umpire.  But that one went against us."

Regardless of the drama, the Nats held a two run lead entering the late innings, and the bullpen was tasked with holding another slim lead. 

Tyler Clippard (W, 8-3) pitched the top of the seventh before the scoring, and gave up a hit, but struck out two. 

Drew Storen was given the eighth inning--in a reversal of roles with Clippard--and allowed a single to Jay Bruce, but popped up Gomes, got Stubbs to ground into a fielder's choice, and blew away Ramon Hernandez with a 96 MPH letter-high fastball.

Riggleman was asked about the flip-flop of roles for Clippard and Storen.  "I was thinking that part of the lineup [in the seventh inning] I wanted Clipp to face, but also, he might go two [innings].  With the rally that we had it put us in the situation where we didn't score but he was coming up fifth the next inning so I had to pinch-hit for him.  I had confidence that Storen would be fine in the eighth."

That brought up Matt Capps, called upon to close it out.  Capps blew his previous two save opportunities against the Houston Astros, and again made things interesting. 

He allowed soft singles to pinch-hitter Laynce Nix and Brandon Phillips, but got Joey Votto looking at a fastball that backed up on the inside corner, and popped Scott Rolen up to catcher Wil Nieves for the last out of the game.

It was Capps 18th save of the season in 21 attempts.

Game two of the three game set is Saturday at 7:05.  Luis Atilano (5-1, 4.70) faces the Reds 2009 first round pick Mike Leake (4-0, 2.45), who went straight from amateur ball to the major leagues.

NATS NOTES:  Desmond scored the Nats first run of the game in the second inning.  He singled, went to second after Livan Hernandez walked, and was driven in by a Cristian Guzman hit.

Ryan Zimmerman scored on a Roger Bernadina single in the third.

Reds starter Aaron Harang left the game tied at two after the fourth inning, having thrown 98 pitches by that point.

Livan Hernandez went six innings, allowing two earned runs on eight hits and four walks.  He struck out three.

The Nationals struck out six times, walked four times and left 12 runners on base.  They were 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position.  The Reds left 11 men on and the two teams combined for 24 hits and eight walks.

1 comments

  1. Stephen Kammerman // June 6, 2010 at 3:59 AM  

    These close games are ones that it takes young teams some time to learn how to win. With good pitching and the addition of Strasburg, things will only continue to look up.