The lead changed hands three times in the seventh and eighth innings, but the Washington Nationals (69-53) overcame another blown save with an Adam LaRoche walk-off home run in the 11th inning, defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks (53-72), 5-4.
Much like last night, this game turned all the way up to 11 in the late innings. After the top of the seventh, the Diamondbacks led 1-0 in a game that had seen seven total hits so far. There were ten more hits and eight more runs to come.
In the bottom of the seventh, Wilson Ramos delivered a shot of adrenaline to the Nationals Park fans with a two-run shot off of Vidal Nuno, who had been stellar to that point, giving the Nats a 2-1 advantage. Nuno would finish the frame, and despite being seen as a relatively poor pitcher when the Diamondbacks acquired him from the New York Yankees in exchange for Brandon McCarthy, he limited the Nationals quite well. He went seven innings, giving up just those two runs on five hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts.
Of course, this was only the beginning of the madness. The bottom of the seventh was the first of four (FOUR!) consecutive half-innings in which at least one run was scored.
Didi Gregorius, who terrorized the Nats all night with highlight-reel defensive plays and a 2-for-5 performance at the dish, delivered his most painful blow of the night with a two-run bomb of his own off of Jordan Zimmermann to give the Diamondbacks the lead right back. Zimmermann had been great through seven innings, but walked the first man he faced in the eighth, with Gregorius on deck. He was pulled after the homer, but still managed a decent line, despite some very uncharacteristic peripherals: 7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K. Tonight was just the 12th start of Zimmermann’s career in which he had more walks than strikeouts.
The drama continued when Denard Span doubled, Anthony Rendon tripled to tie the score, and Jayson Werth hit a sacrifice fly to give the Nationals the lead in the bottom of the eighth. Rafael Soriano blew yesterday’s save, and got the night off after pitching four of the previous five nights, so it was Tyler Clippard who got the chance for the save. Fittingly, he gave up a colossal homer to the first batter he faced to tie the game once more.
The Nationals went quietly in the bottom of the ninth, and the tenth passed without incident, but the action cranked back up in the 11th. Craig Stammen allowed the first three batters he faced to reach, loading the bases with no outs. But Mr. Hyde gave way to Dr. Jekyll, and Stammen retired the next three Diamondbacks without allowing a run.
The game seemed ticketed for a 12th inning when LaRoche came to the plate with two outs, and the Diamondbacks seemed to be pitching around him as he worked a 3-1 count, but the next toss from Will Harris was a meatball that LaRoche sent to the second deck in right, a no-doubter that sent the home fans into a frenzy and the Nationals to a season-high seven-game winning streak.
With the Atlanta Braves’ win, their fourth straight, the Nationals’ division lead remains six games.