Though some have doubted the Washington Nationals’ (20-18) grit, or their ability to secure wins in spite of adversity, they showed they could do it on Monday night when they came from behind twice to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks (15-26), 6-5.
Jordan Zimmermann wasn’t great, the bullpen continued to be great and four clutch home runs gave the Nats the vigor they needed for a victory in Arizona.
One of the biggest complaints about the Nationals this season – and much of last season – has been the lack of offense and the inability to capitalize on crucial offensive situations.
Instead of letting the seventh inning – when they stranded runners on second and third and allowed the Diamondbacks to maintain their lead – define them on Monday night, the Nationals stayed in the game from the first inning to the last in order to get the win.
The game started with a leadoff triple by Denard Span and a sacrifice fly from Anthony Rendon to score him. After that, the Nationals relied on the longball to score their runs.
Tyler Moore was first with a booming solo shot over the left-center field wall in the second inning. Ian Desmond followed in the fourth with a two-run laser to help the Nats regain a lost lead for the first time.
Between the sixth and eighth innings it seemed as if maybe the Nationals would let this game slip through their fingers as they had done with many games before, until Danny Espinosa came to the plate in the ninth inning. Espinosa blasted his sixth home run and 10th RBI of the year out of Chase Field to tie the game and show how he continues to contribute to the Nationals’ lineup despite a .243 batting average with 37 strikeouts.
Kevin Frandsen became the true hero of the game when he surprised everyone with a go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth. The dugout went crazy as Frandsen, who has 14 homers over an eight-year career, celebrated being three outs away from victory with his teammates.
The offense was much needed after Zimmermann twice gave the Diamondbacks a lead.
Overall, Zimmermann was not the dominant pitcher he was in his most recent starts. He faced the minimum in the first and the fifth, but allowed at least one base runner in every other inning and used a lot of pitches in each.
Zimmermann ended his 13-inning streak of holding opponents scoreless in the third, when he gave up four consecutive hard-hit balls to score three runs with two outs before escaping the inning.
In the sixth inning, he surrendered a leadoff double then a home run to A.J. Pollack to allow the Diamondbacks to reclaim a lead the Nationals had held for most of the game. After 92 pitches and five and two-thirds innings, Zimmermann left the game after allowing five runs on 10 hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
The bullpen was able to do what it has done all year, and Jerry Blevins, Aaron Barrett, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano all did their part to preserve the work of the starter who came before them. In three and one-third innings, they allowed just three hits and no runs with three strikeouts.
The win was important to the Nationals after being swept by the Oakland Athletics over the weekend, and winning the opener was precisely the tone they hoped to set for this series.