Werth, Brown come up big against the Marlins
On the day they learned their ace pitcher was officially finished for the season, the Nationals responded to the news with one of their sloppiest performances of 2012. And yet improbably they found a way to win anyway.
Ryan Zimmermann and Adam LaRoche, two of the best defensive players in the majors, both made errors that cost Washington three unearned runs. But Jayson Werth, after a two-hour, 33-minute rain delay, opened the ninth inning with a game-tying solo home run and Corey Brown drove home the winning run in the 10th for a 7-6 victory at Nationals Park on Saturday.
"We had like 15, 10 minutes notice and we were ready to go," manager Davey Johnson said. "Ground crew did a heck of a job getting it ready, and the energy when we were going, [the players] were yelling 'Let's get two, let's get two.' It was really fun to see that much energy after that long of a delay."
Earlier in the day, Johnson announced that pitcher Stephen Strasburg, worn down mentally by the controversy over his impending shutdown and struggling on the mound, would not make his final scheduled start against the New York Mets on Wednesday. That news set a negative tone for a day that was ultimately redeemed by the win.
Marlins pitcher Mark Buehrle held the Nats to five hits through seven innings and threw 113 pitches. The lone runs against him came on solo home runs by Jesus Flores and Bryce Harper and an RBI single by Danny Espinosa.
LaRoche's rare error came in the fifth when a grounder by Justin Ruggiano went right between his legs as Donovan Solano scored on the play. That out would have ended the inning. Instead, it extended Miami's lead to 4-2. That mistake hurt even more when John Buck followed with an RBI single.
Ruggiano also benefited from Zimmerman's throwing error in the seventh. He cleanly fielded a ground ball at third but bounced the throw, and LaRoche's attempt to scoop the ball failed. Solano, who had doubled to lead off the frame and advanced to third on a fly ball, scored on the play. That made it 6-3 Marlins.
Washington had a golden chance to tie the game in the eighth inning when Miami manager Ozzie Guillen turned to his bullpen. Zimmerman blasted a two-run homer to left, and the Nats had runners at first and second with no one out down just 6-5. But Ryan Webb, the third pitcher of the inning, induced a fielder's choice ground out and then struck out Espinosa and pinch hitter Roger Bernadina to end the threat. They would have one more chance, however.
The bottom of the ninth inning was delayed by the torrential thunderstorms that swept through the D.C. area. Play finally resumed, and Marlins reliever Heath Bell promptly gave up a 3-2 homer to Werth to center that tied the game.
"It was good. I had nice little rain delay," Werth cracked. "I had a little massage, change of clothes. Had a chicken salad. And then tied it up. It was well written."
The Nats loaded the bases in the 10th, and Miami moved one of its outfielders into the infield with all five players in close to cut down the runner at home. It worked once as Adam LaRoche was thrown out on a ground ball by Kurt Suzuki that was handled by Ruggiano, the left fielder playing on the infield. But Brown, a pinch hitter, finally took advantage with a soft single to that just eluded right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. Ian Desmond came home with the winning run.
"You gotta be ready at any time so we're in the tunnel staying loose, taking hacks in the cage," Brown said. "It wasn't like I was cold feet and went up there not quite ready because in my situation you got to always be ready to pinch-hit at any time. I had some confidence in myself."
Washington (86-53) increased its National League East lead to seven games over the second-place Atlanta Braves pending their game later Saturday at the New York Mets.