|Nats celebrate their tenth win in their last 11 games. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
Considering the way the Washington Nationals won Tuesday night with two outs in the ninth inning -- capping a five-run comeback -- no one at Nationals Park last night could have been confident until the final out was recorded.
But when Drew Storen punched out Chone Figgins looking for the last out of the game -- recording his 18th save in 20 chances -- the crowd erupted as they did Tuesday, secure in the knowledge that with a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners, the home team would have an even .500 record at the latest point in a season since they finished the inaugural 2005 season at 81-81.
As recently as 10 days ago this scenario could only be seen in a dream. At that point, after a 7-3 loss to the San Diego Padres, the Nats record sat at 27-36, nine game under the break-even mark, staring at three more games in baseball's version of Death Valley, Petco Park. But the Nats found a way to win three consecutive games there, scoring just two runs in each of the three games.
Since then, all they've done is win another seven out of eight games, vaulting their place in the standings from last in the N.L. East to outright possession of third place in the division. The 11-game run is nothing short of remarkable.
With all these wins coming at home, the Nationals now have the third-best home record in the entire N.L. at 21-13.
In last night's win, they borrowed the script from those three wins against the Padres. The Nats got terrific starting pitching from John Lannan -- who went 5 2/3 innings and gave up one run on three hits and no walks, shut-down relief pitching from four different relievers, and just enough offense, benefiting from two unearned runs off Mariners hard-luck starter Erik Bedard, who was excellent in his own right, allowing just three hits and striking out 10 in his six innings of work.
Danny Espinosa and Jerry Hariston drove in the Nats runs, but the how really doesn't matter much anymore. Because just every night save one for the last 11 games the Nats have found a way to win. It's been a different method with different heroes on each occasion, but the result is the same: Another Curly W in the books.
THE GOOD: Lannan was sublime, and the four relievers were just as good, allowing just two hits and no walks with five strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings. Just five guys doing their jobs.
THE BAD: Desmond went 0-for-3 in the two-slot, lowering his average to .231.
THE UGLY: Desmond's throwing error was a serious lack of judgment and one I'm sure he'd like to have back. There was a long fly to the track in left with a runner on first, and Ichiro went more than half-way to see if the ball would be caught. Hairston got the ball in quickly, making Ichiro bid a hasty retreat. Desmond inexplicably wheeled and fired to first, with no chance of a play. Morse could not field the bad throw and the ball ended up in the camera well, allowing Ichiro to take third on the play.
Fortunately, the next batter sent a shot to third that Zimmerman scooped up expertly and ran down Ichiro near home plate to avoid another run.
THE STATS: Five hits, two walks, 10 strikeouts. 2-for-5 with RISP, six LOB, no GIDP. E: Zimmerman (3), Desmond (9).
NEXT GAME: Thursday at 1:05 pm against the Mariners at Nationals Park. Jason Marquis (7-2, 3.86) faces Michael Pineda (7-4, 2.64).
|Jerry Hairston beats out infield hit in Nats 2-1 win over Seattle. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|