After the seventh, it looked like tonight would be another classic late-inning win. But the San Diego Padres would not go quietly into that good night.
A rare blown save from Rafael Soriano wasted an impassioned comeback from the Washington Nationals (31-29), and the Padres (28-34) came through with the walkoff in the 11th inning, winning 4-3.
The Nats trailed 2-0 after the sixth inning, thanks to an immaculate outing from Padres starter Andrew Cashner. In the seventh, they jumped all over reliever Nick Vincent to grab a lead, but a solo homer off of Soriano tied the game with two outs in the ninth. Craig Stammen (L, 0-2) played with fire in the 10th and got burned in the 11th, when Cameron Maybin blooped a single to right to score Chase Headley from second.
But much earlier in the game, it seemed like the Nats wouldn’t have a chance to be in it at all, as they were being mowed down at the hands of Cashner.
The Nationals’ only opportunity against Cashner came in the first inning, but a bit of foolishness on the bases wrecked any chance of cashing in. Kevin Frandsen singled and Jayson Werth doubled to put two runners in scoring position with one out, but Frandsen was picked off third. Adam LaRoche then walked, bringing Ryan Zimmerman to the plate with two on and two out, instead of bases loaded with one out. Zimmerman’s groundout would have scored Frandsen from third, but instead it ended the inning.
After the pickoff, Cashner absolutely locked down on the Nats. Fifteen Nats came and went in order over the next five innings, and none came particularly close to reaching base: only one batter managed to get the ball out of the infield. But the Nats’ saving grace came in the form of the Padres’ management.
Tonight was Cashner’s return from the disabled list and his first start since May 13th, which meant he was on a pitch limit. He was hooked after 70 pitches and six brilliant innings, in which he allowed no runs on just two hits and a walk while striking out five. In the meantime, three hits in the fourth gave the Padres a 2-0 lead against Blake Treinen, who was otherwise quite good, yielding two runs on five hits, no walks, and a strikeout in six innings.
Though the Padres have the league’s third-best bullpen by ERA, the Nats were able to do the damage they couldn’t against San Diego starter. Vincent, who pitched the seventh, entered the game with a 3.86 ERA, but yielded more hits in his inning of work than Cashner did over six. LaRoche doubled just out of the reach of a diving Seth Smith, and Zimmerman’s double drove him in to make it 2-1. One out later, Ian Desmond absolutely massacred a pitch 432 feet to dead center, putting the Nats on top 3-2, a hit that was all the more impressive given how fly balls were dying in the outfield all night.
But it was all for naught when Soriano missed on one pitch.
The blown save was just Soriano’s second of the year, and came in what hardly seemed like a poor performance. He handled the first two hitters with ease, getting a strikeout and a weak grounding with pinpoint control. But Yonder Alonso took advantage of one mistake pitch, driving it just over the right field wall. Two innings later, Stammen gave up a single and a walk before Headley won it to knot the series.
Tomorrow, the Nats will gun for the series win and their seventh win in nine games. Fortunately, Eric Stults and his 5.03 ERA could not be further from Cashner, and Jordan Zimmermann is coming off of his best start of the year.