Game #78 Recap: Suicide Squeeze Stymies Sweep

            Stop me if you’ve heard this onebefore: The Nats once again returned to .500 (39-39) falling to the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2 in 11 innings Thursday afternoon. Despite a one hour, two minute rain delay, this game lived up to the billing of an old school pitcher’s duel as Stephen Strasburg (4-6, 2.41 ERA) went up against southpaw Patrick Corbin (9-0, 2.22 ERA). Although they lost a tough one, the Nats still won the series against a quality team in the Diamondbacks, and are poised to make a run at the Braves for the division crown despite remaining 5.5 games out of first.

            This game didn’t really get exciting until the bottom half of the 4th inning, when a two-out walk to Adam Laroche brought Ian Desmond to the plate, and he did not disappoint, absolutely murdering a 4th slider in a row into the bullpen to give the Nats a two run lead. Unfortunately, Strasburg wasn’t quite able to hold onto the slender lead, surrendering the winning position in the 6th inning when Strasburg gave up a leadoff single to the pitcher, Patrick Corbin. After he was sacrificed to second, 2B Aaron Hill came to the plate and drilled a fastball over the center field wall to tie the game at two apiece. Despite an 8 pitch first inning, the Dbacks were consistently working him deep into counts, making him work really hard to get out of innings. Still, when all is said and done, both pitchers produced similar lines and respectively gave their teams an opportunity to win the game. For Strasburg: 7IP, 6H, 2ER, 2BB, 4K’s on 113 pitches. Corbin’s final line: 7IP, 5H, 2ER, 2BB, 6K’s on 111 pitches.

            Ultimately, the Nats lost this one in the top half of the 11th despite solid if unspectacular relief innings pitched by Drew Storen, Ian Krol and Rafael Soriano, the latter of whom pitched for the third consecutive day. Craig Stammen came into the game and promptly gave up a ground roll double to Miguel Montero. With A.J. Pollock on to pinch run, he was advanced to third on a sac bunt by Cody Ross. After a Jason Kubel walk put runners on the corners, the run came in on a suicide squeeze by shortstop D.D. Gregorius, who made it to first and allowed Pollock to score from third, blindsiding fill-in catcher Jhonatan Solano and 3B Ryan Zimmerman. Heath Bell, despite his proclivity to blow save situations, pitched a scoreless final frame to give the DBacks the win and avoid the sweep at the hands of the Nats.

            It was a rough day at the plate, but Adam Laroche looks to really be heating up. He went 2-3 with two walks on the day, and although he didn’t hit for a whole lot of power on the day, he looked a lot more comfortable at the plate (against a lefty, no less) than he has in recent weeks. Hopefully this is the beginning of a hot streak that propels the Nats to a winning streak that they have not achieved in this long MLB season.

            The Nats return to the hill tomorrow when struggling lefty Ross Detwiler (2-6, 4.18 ERA) goes up against potential all-star starter and NL ace Matt Harvey (7-1, 2.05 ERA) tomorrow evening at Citi Field.


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