WASHINGTON -- A day later, they blew it again. An early lead was flushed. Going up five runs by the third inning was insufficient. A repeat of Thursday’s mess was right in front of them.
But, they pulled it out as another day was ripped off the calendar while the Nationals often stumbled around the baseball field.
Time is short. The season ends in 16 days, the Nationals are 17-26, 17 games remain, they need to win at least 11 to have a postseason chance. More likely, they need to go 13-4 to end the season. Nights like Friday do little for hopes they can make it.
Daniel Hudson brought them to extra innings. All with two outs in the ninth inning.
Ozzie Albies doubled. Ender Inciarte walked. Freddie Freeman walked. Marcell Ozuna singled. Travis d'Arnaud singled. Tie game. Misery.
Eric Thames popped out to end the bottom of the ninth. He missed a cutter right down the middle. This displeased him. When done warming up with ground balls in the top of the 10th, Thames took the ball used for infield practice and hurled it onto the third-deck facade instead of into the dugout.
The Nationals did not execute in extra innings until the bottom of the 12th when Michael A. Taylor hit a light single to right field for an 8-7 win. The game took 4:48. Atlanta left 22 runners on base. In a nutshell, the Nationals deserved to win, then didn’t, then actually won.
The new extra-inning rule didn’t deliver. In the bottom of the 10th, the Nationals tried to get ‘em over, get ‘em in. There was no getting ‘em over. Bunting was a problem in extra innings for Carter Kieboom and Taylor. Eventually, a rare opposite-field hit from Taylor finished the game.
“It’s one of those situations where they’ve got to understand what’s going on,” Davey Martinez said. “[Freddie] Freeman’s over there at first base. Third baseman is playing in. In those situations, all you’ve got to do is get the ball on the ground in front of the pitcher. They understand it. We work on it. Just put the ball down in front of the pitcher. The pitcher’s going to pick up the ball and throw the ball to first base 99 percent of the time.”
Erick Fedde started the night around 6. He pitched five innings, surviving hard-hit balls that were kind of enough zoom to his fielders. In the end, Fedde worked for less than half the game.
James Bourque was the last Nationals pitcher on the mound. A bases-loaded double play closed the 12th. Taylor’s hit provided Bourque with the first win of his major-league career.
In between, the Nationals rolled through Ryne Harper, Kyle McGowin, Wander Suero, Will Harris, Hudson, Kyle Finnegan, then Bourque.
The Nationals have won five of seven games. Patrick Corbin pitches Saturday. Max Scherzer pitches Sunday. They are not dead, yet. They also haven’t produced the kind of baseball which suggests an ongoing surge is imminent. However, they will embrace Friday and move on.
“A win is a win is a win,” Martinez said.