Late rally gives Nats first walk-off of season
An inevitable roster shakeup finally rattled the locker room at Nationals Park on Tuesday afternoon. For most of the night, it looked like those moves would do little to change the results on the field.
But a late rally provided hope. Steve Lombardozzi capped a two-run ninth inning with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to lift the Nats to a 3-2 victory over the New York Mets.
A pair of sloppy miscues in the fifth inning led to an Omar Quintanilla triple, and New York took a 2-1 lead over struggling Washington, which had fallen a game under .500.
Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann dropped a throw from first baseman Adam LaRoche with one out in the fifth to allow Jordany Valdespin to reach base. A fielders' choice throwing error by LaRoche pulled shortstop Ian Desmond off second base and Rick Ankiel reached base, too. After a sacrifice bunt by pitcher Jeremy Hefner, Quintanilla ripped a grounder past a diving LaRoche at first and into the right-field corner for a two-run triple.
But the Nats (29-29) found a way to rally for their first walk-off win of the season. Ryan Zimmerman doubled to lead off the bottom of the ninth and went to third on a wild pitch. LaRoche singled him home to tie the game. A double by Desmond off Mets reliever Bobby Parnell set up Lombardozzi's fly ball to left to score LaRoche. Prior to that, Desmond's solo homer in the second inning was their only run.
"We haven't been able to generate any offense, really, this year," Zimmerman said. "To come from behind ... hopefully we can kind of gain some momentum off of this and take it and run with it."
Hefner entered the game with a 4.74 ERA but handcuffed Washington's dismal offense. He allowed four hits in seven innings and struck out seven batters with one walk. He retired 12 of the next 13 batters after Desmond's homer in the second.
Zimmermann (2.16 ERA) completed eight innings with just four hits allowed in a fine effort but cost himself a run with his error. He struck out four batters, including New York star David Wright with a runner at third and two down in the eighth, and walked just one.
It was a much-needed result on a day when the Nats made several important roster moves. Second baseman Danny Espinosa was placed on the 15-day disabled list thanks to lingering pain from his fractured right wrist and floating bone fragments. He will see a hand specialist on Wednesday and even upon his return, may have to start in the minor leagues to regain his lost swing. In his place, top prospect Anthony Rendon was promoted from Triple-A Syracuse. The sixth pick in the 2011 draft will primarily play second base.
Meanwhile, reliever Henry Rodriguez, whose inability to find the plate finally exhausted the organization's patience, was designated for assignment. Manager Davey Johnson expected both Rodriguez and fellow reliever Zach Duke, who was also designated for assignment, to be picked up by other organizations.
Tuesday's series opener against the Mets marked the return of outfielder Jayson Werth, who has been out since May 2 (28 games) with a recurring right hamstring injury.