Unbelievable though it may be, the Washington Nationals (73-53) walked off for the fifth time in six games on a throwing error in the bottom of the ninth, earning their tenth consecutive win by a 1-0 score over the Arizona Diamondbacks (53-75), despite their offensive struggles earlier in the game.
After eight and a half scoreless innings, Denard Span singled to open the ninth and stole second with Anthony Rendon at bat. Rendon grounded to third, but Jordan Pacheco’s throw was wide and bounced into the camera well, awarding Span two bases and the winning run.
At ten consecutive wins, the Nationals have matched their longest streak since moving to Washington, originally set in 2005. The win also gives the Nats a 7.5 game lead in the division, at least temporarily. The Atlanta Braves have been fortunate to get hot at the same time as the Nats have, winning their previous five games before a loss last night to minimize their damage in the standings.
But perhaps most significantly, the tenth straight win means that manager Matt Williams must reenact his 1991 Babe Ruth impression. Unfortunately, Williams has said the timing is “inappropriate” for him to return to the stage, and it appears eager fans may have to wait until the offseason to see Williams’s act.
What was actually most significant for the Nationals in today’s game was the resurgence of Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez had been struggling badly this season, with a 4.06 ERA entering tonight, but he was impressive against the Diamondbacks, by no means a dreadful hitting team. He tossed seven scoreless innings, giving up just four hits and three walks while striking out six. His curveball, which has been inconsistent this season, looked as good as it has all year. If Gonzalez can maintain this improved form as the year winds down, his performance will go a long way towards helping the Nationals make the playoffs and towards helping decide the final spot of a potential playoff rotation.
Lost in the victory celebration may be the struggles the Nats had in the early goings. Baserunners were common against Arizona starter Wade Miley; the Nationals knocked eight hits and drew six walks against him. But he did an excellent job of scattering those runners, and it certainly didn’t hurt that the Nationals went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position against him.
Though they cut it close again, the Nationals pulled out another victory, and will look to extend the streak when the San Francisco Giants come to town tomorrow, starting longtime Nationals nemesis Tim Hudson.