Game #78 Recap: Suicide Squeeze Stymies Sweep

            Stop me if you’ve heard this one
before: 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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