The 2012 Washington Nationals have 24 comeback wins, eight walk-off wins, and 18 times they have caused a reliever to blow the game. The Nats have also played in 35 one-run games winning 19 of those and 14 of their games have gone to extras with eight victories. The Nats are finding ways to win close games, but more importantly they are finding ways to never be out of games.
Despite scoring a season low 3.36 runs a game in April the Nats finished the month with a 14-8 record. Since the end of April the Nats have averaged 4.63 runs a game which would rank them third in the NL had they had this offense all season. The Nats haven’t had this offense all season and not once have they had their full line-up on the field at the same time this season.
Before the season began the Nats were thought to be a team with a 90 win pitching staff and a 70 win offense. The pitching staff has been everything and more that was expected, but the offense has been much better than expected. April was an anomaly in runs scored for the Nats, but a trend started on Opening Day that has persisted for the entire season. In the Nats very first game of the season they would cause Kerry Wood to blow a save in the eighth before winning in the ninth as Carlos Marmol allowed a go-ahead single to Ian Desmond that scored pinch runner Bret Carroll.
The two days later in their second game of the season the Nats would cause Carlos Marmol to blow a save against them as Chad Tracy would single in Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. The next victim of the Nats heroics would be Bill Bray as he had to face pinch hitter Xavier Nady who would hit a pinch hit homerun against him. The Nats would eventually win in extras on a Jayson Werth bases-loaded single.
In the final game of that series a series of blown calls by the first base and homeplate ump would lead to a Ryan Ludwick grand-slam, and while the Nats did go on to lose the game they did cause Logan Ondrusek to blow a save. The Nats have lost five of the games in which they have caused a reliever to blow a save. The most infamous being the July 20 9-0 blown lead against the Atlanta Braves where Danny Espinosa hit a homerun off of Craig Kimbrel to send the game to extras. The others are the Rod Barajas walk-off, the New York Yankees game where Tyler Moore may have touched home to give the Nats the lead in the eighth but the ump didn’t see it that way and called him out, and Bryce Harper’s game tying homer against the Colorado Rockies.
The Nats record in games in which they cause a reliever to blow a save is 11-5. After the first month of the season some of the more memorable ones were Ian Desmond’s two-run walk-off homer off of JJ Putz that ended the Nats five game losing streak, two comeback wins against the Mets bullpen where two different relievers blew saves, the walk-off win against Santiago Casilla and the Giants on throwback night, and John Axford’s wild pitch that scored Corey Brown. In that last game John Axford was credited with one blown save but the Brewers would retake the lead and Axford stayed in the game to try and close out the Nats. Michael Morse would have none of that though as he launched a two run homer to send the game to extras. Morse would eventually hit a two run double that would give the Nats an 11-10 victory in extras. The exact same score and innings count as the July 20 loss to the Braves.
The Nats have done many things well this season, it is difficult to have the best record in the NL when not doing more than one thing well, and one of those things is fighting until the final out. Baseball is unlike other sports. It doesn’t end with the blow of a whistle. Until 27 outs have been recorded there is always a chance. The Nats have taken great advantage of all 27 of their outs. 18 times the Nats have caused a reliever to blow a save against them and have 24 comeback victories because they refuse to give up. This type of resiliency is one of the reasons the Nats maintained a 4 game lead over the Braves despite entering the eighth inning yesterday down 7-3.
Finding ways to win is what good teams do, and the Nats have done it as well as anyone in 2012, and this type of fight will carry them a long way.