Postgame analysis of the Nats' 9-7 win over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night at Nationals Park.
How it happened: September is a good time of the year to be an MLB manager. When rosters expand, managers get all the weapons they could ever want at their disposal. And on Tuesday night in the eighth inning, Dusty Baker made the most of his robust arsenal by using outfielder Michael Taylor in a pinch-run situation that led to a go-ahead run in their 9-7 win over the Braves.
Called off the bench to replace Ryan Zimmerman at first after Zimmerman drew a walk, Taylor stole second with Braves reliever Jose Ramirez on the mound. Ben Revere then laid down a bunt which brought Taylor all the way home thanks to an errant throw by catcher Tyler Flowers. He sailed the ball into left field, allowing the Nats to take a late lead.
Trea Turner then singled home two more runs soon after that to give the Nats a comfortable advantage. The late rally helped bail out Nats starter Gio Gonzalez, who put in one of his worst games of this season. Gonzalez gave up six earned runs in just three innings of work.
Ender Inciarte landed an RBI double off Gonzalez. Matt Kemp and Dansby Swanson brought in runs on groundouts. Swanson added another on an inside-the-park homer, the first home run of his career. Freddie Freeman and pitcher Joel De La Cruz poked RBI singles, Freeman's conveniently placed to beat a shift. Swanson added his third RBI in the ninth inning with a single off Nats closer Mark Melancon.
The Nats also had plenty of contributors on offense. Anthony Rendon hit a grand slam, his 17th homer of the season. Zimmerman added a solo shot, his 14th, and walked. Bryce Harper had two hits and scored a run. Gonzalez even notched an RBI single to help his own cause.
The Nationals won their second straight game and moved to 13-2 against the Braves this season.
What it means: The Nationals moved to 81-57 on the year, making sure they will finish with at least a .500 record. They are now just two wins away from the 83 they had one year ago. Their magic number in the NL East dropped to 16.
Gio gets rocked: Tuesday night was Gonzalez' worst start in over two months. His three innings tied his shortest outing of the season. And his six earned runs were the most he's surrendered since June 25 in Milwaukee. They also matched the total runs he had given up in his previous three starts.
It was a big step back for Gonzalez, who has been mostly good for the last two months. After Tuesday, though, he now sports a 4.40 ERA. Gonzalez has never had an ERA over 4.00 in a full season before in his career. It's starting to look likely that happens this year.
Rendon hits No. 17: Rendon's grand slam, the first of his carer, gave the Nats a lead at the time and it earned him a curtain call from the crowd at Nationals Park. Rendon now has 17 homers and 69 RBI on the season. He also walked and scored two runs in the game. Rendon has enjoyed a strong second half of the year. In 46 games since the All-Star break, he is hitting 53-for-168 (.316) with eight homers, 36 RBI, 17 doubles, 28 runs and 17 walks. That will certainly do.
Murphy gets three: Murphy's three hits gave him his 52nd multi-hit game of the season, which leads the National League. He now has 168 hits on the year through 128 games. That's just 16 short of the Nats' record for a single season, 184, set by Denard Span back in 2014. With 24 games left, it's likely Murphy can get there. Also, for comparison, Murphy is now just four hits short of the 172 that Harper put up last season when he won the NL MVP award.
Harper steals No. 20: Harper stole second base in the seventh inning to notch his 20th steal of the year. That extended his career-high and gave him his first career season with 20 homers (he has 23) and 20 steals. Only two other players in Nats history have done that: Alfonso Soriano in 2006 and Ian Desmond in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Up next: The Nats and Braves finish their series with another 7:05 p.m. start on Wednesday night. Right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (8-5, 4.31) will start for Atlanta. The Nats have not named their starter yet.
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