Nationals Extend Division Lead With Series Sweep

The Washington Nationals (37-33) completed the season sweep of the Houston Astros (32-41) on Wednesday with a 6-5 comeback victory. Gio Gonzalez started in his first game back from a month-long stint on the disabled list to fairly disappointing results, but the Nats offense was able to pick him up with a late inning surge to extend their lead in the NL East.

The Nats clearly saw something from Astros starter Scott Feldman early, because they were extremely aggressive on the base paths. Denard Span walked and then promptly stole second. Well, actually, he was called out, but the call was overturned on replay.

Anthony Rendon singled and stole second before Adam LaRoche drove in Span on a sacrifice fly. Rendon stole third without a throw, and Ryan Zimmerman walked, but they only scored the one run for an early 1-0 lead.

Span tacked on another stolen base in the second, for the Nats fourth of the game, and then in the third, Jayson Werth walked and stole the teams fifth base of the game, all by just the third inning. The stolen base paid off this time, as Ian Desmond was able to drive Werth in with a single to center to extend the lead to 2-0. Also, here’s a Vine of the ridiculous pop-up, tag-avoiding slide.

By the fourth inning though, Gio’s luck with leadoff walks ran out. After walking the leadoff guy in the third of four innings, the meltdown came quickly. He allowed the first five batters of the inning to reach, four runners crossed the plate, and the Astros quickly took a 4-2 lead.

Ross Detwiler did get a chance to make an impact on the game, and it was a tale of two Dets. While he pitched a first clean inning in the sixth and the pitching line doesn’t look too bad at first blush, a mental mistake cost the Nats a big run. On a wild pitch, he didn’t break to cover home plate, and Robbie Grossman scored to extend Houston’s lead to 5-3.

Rendon wasn’t done making an impact on this game, though. He hit a leadoff home run into the Red Porch seats to give the offense the jolt they needed in the seventh. Werth walked and LaRoche blooped a single that sent him to third. Zimmerman drove Werth in with a grounder to the right side to tie the game up. Zimmerman eventually scored on a Nate McLouth sacrifice fly to give the Nats a 6-5 lead.

Some thoughts

  • Gio seriously struggled in the fourth inning and was at 77 pitches by the time the painful inning ended. Despite just coming off a month long disabled list trip on the hottest day of the year, he hit for himself in the bottom of the fourth. This really seemed like a prime position to bring in a pinch hitter and allow Detwiler to get some long relief, but Matt Williams didn’t think so. He was eventually pulled after the fifth with 93 pitches.
  • Tyler Clippard had a nice bounce back after getting lit up on Tuesday. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth, which ended with a strikeout of Grossman.
  • With the win tonight, the Nats have a chance to take a huge division lead with a four-game series against the Braves that starts on Thursday.

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Joe Drugan

About Joe Drugan

Joe is the Managing Editor of The Nats Blog and host of the Nats Talk On The Go podcast. He's been blogging about the Nationals since 2010 and with The Nats Blog since 2011.