Espinosa, Harper hit homer as part of six-run eighth inning
It all started with an error. It almost always does.
Miami Marlins reliever Mike Dunn began the eighth inning of Saturday's game against the Nationals with a pair of routine ground balls. The first one resulted in an out. The second? Well, the easy throw from first baseman Carlos Lee clipped off Dunn's glove and bounced away. Just like that Adam LaRoche was on first base and Dunn was in trouble.
Six batters and two monster home runs later a two-run deficit was long gone. Danny Espinosa ripped a three-run homer to left field to break a tie game and Bryce Harper followed with a moon shot to right in a 10-7 Washington victory.
It was a dramatic turnaround and one that left Dunn stunned and the Nats (64-43) celebrating one of their best wins of the season. Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore both produced RBI singles with two outs in the eighth to tie the game at 6-6. If it wasn't for Dunn's own miscue, he would have been out of the inning after striking out Kurt Suzuki.
"That's what we kept talking about is just the guy messed up the [play], and it just happens like that," Moore said. "This game's crazy."
Instead, Espinosa batted with two men on and ?-- despite a recent slump -- smacked a two-strike slider on a hard line into the left-field stands for a decisive three-run homer. The big crowd at Nationals Park roared as Espinosa's teammates mobbed him in the dugout. Just minutes earlier they had learned second-place Atlanta had lost to Houston.
"It's a great feeling to just be able to come through," Espinosa said. "I've had a lot of situations this year where I think I haven't done so well, and to be able to come through for the team like that felt really good."
With the crowd still cheering, Harper launched a ball into the second deck in right field, one of his longest homers of the season. That solo shot put a merciful end to Dunn's night. By the time Michael Morse grounded out to second base for the second time in the inning, it was all but over. Closer Tyler Clippard finished off Miami in the ninth.
It certainly didn't look like it was Washington's day early. The Marlins scored twice in the second inning thanks in part to one of the Nats' three errors on a sloppy night in the field. LaRoche homered in the bottom of that frame, but an RBI single by Lee in the third made it 3-1. Ryan Zimmerman and Morse added RBI singles to tie it at 3-3 in the bottom of that inning.
But an uncharacteristic throwing error by Espinosa in the fifth gave the Marlins a run. Jose Reyes promptly stole second base and then scored on Lee's double. LaRoche homered again in the sixth to make it 5-4, but yet another Reyes walk and steal in the seventh, an error by Lombardozzi at second and a sacrifice bunt pushed Reyes home with an insurance run. But that lead would disappear with shocking speed. The pennant race fun continues for the first-place Nats.
"It's awesome because I hear the stories of when they struggled last year or the year before that, and this is all I really know because I'm new," Moore said. "So it was great to have that, and it just kind of shows character ... about this organization and how it builds forward."