For eight innings, Seattle Mariners starter Doug Fister dominated the Washington Nationals, limiting the hottest team in baseball to just one run on three hits.
When manager Eric Wedge took him out after the eighth inning to bring in closer Brandon League (20-of-23 in save opportunities in 2011) in a 5-1 ballgame, the task appeared overwhelming.
After Ryan Zimmerman hit into his third double play of the game three batters later, the Nats had one half of one percent chance to win the game.
But then Jerry Hairston bounced one up the middle that scored Jayson Werth, who reached on an error by first baseman Justin Smoak and took third on Zimmerman's DP. Next, Michael Morse slammed a ball off League's leg, which allowed Morse to reach on an infield single and sent League to the showers when he was in too much pain to continue pitching.
Wedge summoned reliever David Pauley, who entered with an ERA for the season of 1.12 -- with no home runs allowed -- in 40 1/3 innings.
Pauley threw one pitch to Danny Espinosa: a 90-MPH sinker that the rookie second baseman pushed through the right side to score Hairston from second.
Then... well, just watch it again.
In less than 10 minutes, the Nats went from dropping two in a row and raising doubts about the nature of the recently concluded eight-game winning streak to beating the Mariners 6-5, continuing the happy vibes all over NatsTown.
The four-run comeback was the largest ninth-inning deficit erased by this team since the move in 2005 and makes the Nats 14-6 in their last 20 games, a period that has seen their overall record go from seven games below .500 to just one, and from last place in the N.L. East to sole possession of third, with the New York Mets loss to Oakland last night.
Momentum in baseball is a funny thing. It's unquantifiable, not found on any stat sheet. This Nationals team has lots of problems on the roster, as dispassionate logic and statistical analysis tells us. But right now, the team believes in themselves, the fans are having fun at the ballpark, and the wins keep rolling in. Even the most hardened cynics have to hold their tongues right now. The Nats are on a roll.
THE GOOD: Ramos' home run was a no-doubt-about-it shot, which landed several rows higher than the Red Porch restaurant seats, almost to the glass windows. It was, truly, a majestic shot.
THE BAD: Livan Hernandez. Unfortunately, the reason for the comeback, other than Fister stifling the Nats hitters, was Bad Livo. He only went four innings, allowing five runs -- four earned -- on 10 hits and a walk.
THE UGLY: It's almost too much to bring up in such a stunning win, but Jayson Werth took a play off in the fifth that ended up costing the Nats a run, so it needs to be mentioned. Brendan Ryan hit a soft single to right that Werth took his time getting too, and Ryan broke for second. In a hurry to pick up the ball, Werth dropped it -- for his fifth error of the season -- and Ryan went into second without a throw. The next batter, Adam Kennedy, single to drive in the Mariners fifth -- and last -- run of the game, giving them a 5-0 lead at the time.
THE STATS: Seven hits, two walks, three strikeouts. 4-for-6 with RISP, two LOB, three GIDP. E: Werth (5).
NEXT GAME: Wednesday at 7:05 against the Mariners at Nats Park. John Lannan (4-5, 3.52) faces Erik Bedard (4-4, 3.16).
HARPER WATCH: Bryce Harper did not participate in the South Atlantic League All-Star Home Run Derby due to his sore thumb. But he did play in the game, going 0-for-2 with a run scoring groundout, as his Northern Division team lost to the Southern Division All-Stars 6-3.
|Pudge didn't play, but did celebrate the 20th anniversary of his Major League debut. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
|Perhaps the biggest story of the night, Jayson Werth shaved. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
|Michael Morse made a nice play from his knees to retire Justin Smoak at second. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|