Nats sweep the D-backs: ten in a row!
It wasn't easy, but the Washington Nationals swept the Diamondbacks in a four-game series this week, their third consecutive series sweep. That was their tenth consecutive win, a feat they managed only one time before since their inaugural season in Washington: June 2-12, 2005. What's nearly as amazing is the fact that five of their last [six] wins have been walk-off victories. The Nationals extended their lead over the Braves to seven games, and now have the highest winning percentage (.579) in the National League.
On Tuesday, Ian Desmond and Asdrubal Cabrera provided most of the offensive firepower, getting 4 and 3 RBIs, respectively, as the Nats won decisively, 8-1. With an early lead as a cushion, Stephen Strasburg has one of his best outings of the year, going eight strong innings. It was the Nats' only blowout win this week.
On Wednesday, Bryce Harper showed more signs of improvement at the plate, getting three hits, the most important of which came in the ninth inning. The Nats had had a 2-0 lead until Tyler Clippard walked a batter and then gave up a home run to Ender Inciarte in the top of the eighth inning. That was the second straight blown save for Clip, which is too bad. He is usually very reliable, and has been the linchpin of the Nats' bullpen for years. But after Bryce Harper got to third base in the bottom of the ninth, thanks to a pinch-hit single by Kevin Frandsen, Anthony Rendon came through with a single smashed down the left field line, and Harper trotted home victoriously. [Final score: Nats 3, D-backs 2.]
And then last night the Nats got 8 hits in the first eight innings, but neither team scored. That meant either a walk-off win or a loss for the home team. In the bottom of the ninth, Denard Span led off with a hit, then stole second base, getting into scoring position with just one out. Here we go again! The next batter, Anthony Rendon, hit a hard ground ball to third base, and the throw to first by Jordan Pacheco was wide and trickled into the dugout (or camera pit?), and the umpire awarded Span an extra base, which won the game. [Gio Gonzalez deserves his share of credit, pitching seven scoreless innings and giving up just four hits and three walks. Final score: Nats 1, D-bakcs 0.] Not as fulfilling as the other walk-off wins, but we'll take it!
Barring a miracle, however, the Nationals' winning streak is about to come to an end. The visiting San Francisco Giants hold a 10-2 lead in the middle of the ninth inning, scoring six of those runs in the final two innings. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted...
[UPDATE: Wilson Ramos doubled in a run in the bottom of the ninth, but that's when the magic came to an end, as the Nats fell to the Giants, 10-3.]
In other news...
There was another weird 1-0 ballgame yesterday: The Tampa Bay Rays beat the visiting Detroit Tigers [in spite of getting] only one hit in the game: an RBI triple by Brandon Guyer [in the first inning], after Ben Zobrist reached base on a throwing error by shortstop Eugenio Suarez. Former Ray David Price pitched eight more innings without allowing a runner to reach base, but still lost the game. Talk about frustration for the Tigers...
Meanwhile, the Oakland A's have slumped badly, losing 8 of their last 10 games, while the L.A. Angels have surged into first place in the AL West, winning 8 of their last 10.