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Nationals pull off old-time kind of rally

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

Harper and Co. get to Cain, finish sweep of Giants

The Nationals should have been put out of their misery early Thursday night. But starter Ross Detwiler wiggled free from one jam after another against the San Francisco Giants, and their hitters would not relent against opposing pitcher Matt Cain.

Detwiler stranded six San Francisco runners to give his team a chance to rally. They did just that in the late innings with Adam LaRoche capping a two-run ninth inning on his game-winning infield grounder that the Giants couldn't convert into a double play. Rookie Bryce Harper scored the game-winning run in what became a dramatic 6-5 victory at Nationals Park.

Washington (48-32) swept the three-game series from San Francisco (45-38) and has won seven of its last nine games. The Nats scored three runs in the seventh inning to knock Cain from the game. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa both homered off him, and Harper later popped a double into shallow left field to drive home another run. That cut a 5-1 lead to 5-4, and the Giants only escaped the inning because a Ryan Zimmerman line drive with runners at second and third was hit directly at center fielder Angel Pagan.

Closer Santiago Casilla faltered in the ninth, allowing a leadoff double by pinch hitter Tyler Moore. He then failed to field a Steve Lombardozzi bunt cleanly, allowing another runner to reach base. Harper came through with a chopper that bounded into right field to score Moore and tie the game. After an intentional walk to Ryan Zimmerman loaded the bases and brought the infield in, Lombardozzi was thrown out at home on Michael Morse's grounder to second base. But that only delayed the win. LaRoche's grounder was hit just slowly enough that shortstop Brandon Crawford had to rush his throw on the double-play attempt. Brandon Belt couldn't make the scoop, and Harper crossed the plate with the winning run.

It was a fitting end. Harper's 10-pitch at-bat in the sixth inning on a scorching, humid night did as much as anything to push Cain out of the game the following inning. His pitch count finally rose to 103, and the balls hit by Desmond and Espinosa were left up and over the plate. Harper's double to shallow left off Jeremy Affeldt scored Mark DeRosa, who had left off the frame with a pinch-hit double of his own.

San Francisco took the lead in the third inning on an infield ground out by Melky Cabrera and a base hit by Pagan. The Giants added to it in the fourth inning after consecutive dribblers for singles toward Zimmerman at third base with two out. That led to a Cabrera double down the line in left for an RBI.

In all, Detwiler allowed 11 hits -- though only two of them went for extra-bases -- and walked two more batters. Yet somehow San Francisco only scored three runs off him.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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