The game was in line to become one of the Washington Nationals’ (11-8) biggest disappointments of the season.
The Nats had outhit the St. Louis Cardinals (11-8) 11 to seven, but went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 17 men on base for the first time since 2011, when they also left 17 in a 14-inning game.
The #Nats have left 15 runners on base for the 1st time since Aug. 28, 2011 at Cincinnati, when they left 17 in a 14-inning game.
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) April 20, 2014
But then Denard Span saved the day, and allowed his Nationals teammates and fans to go home celebrating instead of grumbling.
The game was knotted at two and the bases were loaded in the bottom of the ninth with one out when Span lofted a fly ball into right field, giving Danny Espinosa enough time to score on the sacrifice to win the game, 3-2, in walk-off fashion.
Though Span was ultimately the player doused with Gatorade after the game, Espinosa and Jose Lobaton, who each singled in the bottom of the ninth, were the big offensive contributors of the game.
Espinosa and Lobaton were the only Nationals with multiple hits. Espinosa went 3-for-4 with a walk and an RBI, and Lobaton went 3-for-5.
Espinosa was an integral piece of the Nationals’ offense during this series, going 5-for-14 through four games with two RBIs. His improvement since last year continued to show, as his three-hit game Sunday gave him as many multi-hit games (4) through 11 starts as he had through all of 2013.
Espinosa’s RBI-single off a 98 mph fastball from Carlos Martinez in the seventh inning tied the game after Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond all singled ahead of him, providing the first offensive spark of the game for the Nats.
Three runs were all the Nationals needed to win the game, after Stephen Strasburg’s solid outing.
Strasburg cruised through six innings on 90 pitches, giving up two runs on five hits and one walk. His nine strikeouts pushed him into the lead in MLB strikeouts with 42 total and an average of 10.5 per game.
The Cardinals scored the first run of the game in the second inning when Strasburg gave up a double and a single to lead off the inning, and a run scored after Jhonny Peralta grounded into a double play.
They scored again in what could have been a quick fifth inning. Strasburg struck out the first two batters he faced, but then walked Peter Bourjos, the eighth hitter in the Cardinals lineup. Pitcher Shelby Miller then surprised with his first double of the season to score Bourjos and give the Cardinals a two-run lead.
Luckily for the Nationals, they were able to come from behind to win the game for the sixth time in 11 wins this season. Though they didn’t make an overwhelming statement on their ability to beat talented teams, by splitting this series with the Cardinals the Nationals were able to gain some ground in the NL East and in the eyes of their critics.
- After being called out by Matt Williams for his “lack of hustle” during Saturday’s game, Bryce Harper stole his first base of the year on Sunday to put himself in scoring position during a rally attempt in the eighth inning. He was not benched for the ninth inning.
- Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth inning in a non-save situation, but still made quick work of the Cardinals in a 1-2-3 inning on seven pitches with a strikeout. Soriano has yet to allow a run this season in eight innings, and is 5-for-5 in save opportunities.