Postgame analysis of the Nats' 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in extra innings on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.
How it happened: Off-days are cherished throughout the course of a 162-game MLB season, but the Nationals will be extra thankful for the one they are about to get on Monday.
That's because they just lost the longest baseball game of most of their lives. And if anyone involved in their 18-inning loss to the Pirates on Sunday has ever experienced a longer and more exhausting defeat before in their baseball careers, then God bless their souls.
This was a brutal one. It will go down as just one loss, but the Nationals just got the energy drained out of them in the longest regular season game in team history. Only their NLDS Game 2 defeat of 2014 was as long in terms of innings. And just like that marathon, an extra innings homer did them in.
This time it was Starling Marte who launched a solo bomb to left field with two outs in the top of the 18th off Oliver Perez. That put the Pirates up 2-1 and gave them the victory.
The game began with an unlikely pitchers duel between Max Scherzer and rookie Chad Kuhl. Scherzer allowed one run across seven innings and Kuhl tossed six shutout frames with just one hit surrendered.
The Nats would get to Pittsburgh's bullpen, however, as Daniel Murphy smacked a game-tying pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the ninth in his first at-bat after missing two games with a hamstring injury. That forced extra innings, where the Nats bullpen ultimately cracked after combining to toss 9 2/3 scoreless frames.
All in all it was a tough day for the Nats' offense, which managed only one run. The Nationals fell to 4-4 in extra innings this season.
What it means: The Nats had their five-game winning streak snapped and fell to 56-37 on the year. The Mets won and cut the Nats' lead in the NL East to six games.
Scherzer strong again: Scherzer overcame a high pitch count early to go seven strong innings in the loss. He gave up only one run on six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts and 103 total pitches thrown. Scherzer has made it at least six innings in 13 straight starts with a 2.16 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 91 2/3 innings during that stretch. He has given up just two earned runs in his last four outings across 27 1/3 frames.
Scherzer's only run on Sunday was on a Marte double in the sixth inning. Marte drove in Adam Frazier, who led off with a double of his own. Of the six hits the Pirates got off Scherzer, four were doubles.
Bullpen also good: The Nats' bullpen picked up right where Scherzer left off, combining to toss 9 2/3 scoreless frames before Perez gave up the go-ahead homer. Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley, Jonathan Papelbon and Yusmeiro Petit all tossed one inning apiece to take them through the 11th. Matt Belisle then tossed two scoreless innings before Felipe Rivero took over to pitch three unblemished frames. As a group they struck out nine and gave up just three hits and two walks before Perez came in.
Turner's rough day: Turner was a late addition to the Nats lineup once Anthony Rendon became a late scratch with flu-like symptoms. Turner hit leadoff, but wasn't able to much going at the plate. He went 2-for-7 with four strikeouts and is now just 3-for-15 in the three games he's played since getting called up just over a week ago. The 2-for-7, however, was worse than it looks. His second single led off the bottom of the 17th, but Turner then got thrown out at second trying to manufacture a double. It was an unfortunate mistake for the rookie.
Murphy hits No. 18: Murphy's homer was his 18th of the season and the fourth pinch-hit homer of his career. His last came against the Nats on April 27, 2011 when he hit one off Tyler Clippard. It was the 10th pinch-hit homer for the Nats already this season, tied for the most in baseball with the Cardinals.
Harper reaches twice: Harper's single was his second in as many games, but one of only three over his last six outings overall. He's 3-for-22 (.136) during this current slump. He also walked, though, to lead off the 10th inning.
Up next: The Nats take Monday off before hosting the Dodgers on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series. Flamethrowing prospect Reynaldo Lopez will make his MLB debut for the Nats opposite L.A. lefty Scott Kazmir (7-3, 4.52).
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