In a game that is now being described as perhaps the most exciting in franchise history, as well as a defining moment in the Washington Nationals’ 2012 campaign, shortstop and second sacker Danny Espinosa launched a stunning eighth inning home run to left field to give the Nationals the lead in what turned into a 10-7 victory over the Miami Marlins.
The Espinosa round tripper sealed yet another come-from-behind Nationals win, in what was a see-saw game that might well have seen the Nationals’ lose. In describing the reaction from the raucous crowd, Baseball Tonight announcers said that Espinosa’s home run “blew the lid off” Nationals’ Park. “Awesome,” Nats’ newbie Kurt Suzuki said after the game. “That was awesome.”
Awesome (or not), the Nationals victory over the Marlins came during a game that was billed as a pitching match-up: the Nationals Jordan Zimmermann versus the Marlins’ Mark Buehrle. In fact, neither pitcher was dominant — both gave up four earned runs and both gave up seven hits, though Buehrle pitched through the 6th, while Zimmermann lasted only five.
In the end, it was the bats of the Nationals that made the difference, and in classic fashion. The Nationals’ hot hitting Adam LaRoche launched two home runs (his 21st and 22nd), returning spark plug Jayson Werth was 2-3, and Ryan Zimmerman and Espinosa were both 2-4. To cap off the win, Bryce Harper launched a post-Espinosa offering from Mike Dunn into the second deck in right field.
In fact, it was a Mike Dunn error that set up the Nationals victory. After a Michael Morse ground out in the 8th, Dunn missed a feed on a ground ball from Carlos Lee, an error that put Adam LaRoche on first. Dunn, coming over from first, simply muffed the feed. Dunn seemed shaken by the error.
While he struck out the next batter, Kurt Suzuki, Dunn gave up singles to Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore, before yielding the Espinosa dinger. In effect, the Dunn error sparked a six run 8th for the Nationals. “We practice that – - – thing from the first day of spring training,” Marlins skipper Ozzie Guillen said of Dunn’s error. ” . . . And there you go, that was the baseball game right there.”
“This was a fun game,” Davey Johnson said after the stunning win. Johnson went on to add that the come-from-behind victory was not surprising, given the way that the Nationals have been playing. “Zim didn’t pitch very well, and we didn’t play very well. But we persevered,” he said. “That’s the makeup of this ballclub. We gave them one back, and it was fun. Really fun.”
It might have been fun for Johnson, but not so much for Guillen, who was unusually distraught after the loss. “The way we’ve played all year long, it’s a regular, normal game for us,” he said. “We find a way to lose, no matter what. I guess you’ve got to get used to it, whether you’re a coach or manager. Very, very, weird, funny the way we’ve been playing.”
No doubt, last night’s victory was an important win for the Washington franchise, now becoming known for having one of the loudest fan bases in the majors. Davey Johnson showed outward pride in the way the fans reacted, which is now being noticed by nearly every baseball analyst. As important, Washington’s best kept secret, Adam LaRoche is now being mentioned as a possible MVP.
LaRoche is perhaps the one reason that the Nationals find themselves where they are. The team came out strong in April and May, but was beset by injuries and an inability to score early on. Except for LaRoche, who reversed his usual slow start to carry the Nationals during their most difficult time. Saturday night’s win seemed to put an exclamation point on his value.
LaRoche himself was modest, referencing the Anacostia Nine’s uncanny ability to surmount an early game deficit. “To turn it around like that just says something about this club,” LaRoche said. “Not that we should be surprised. We’ve been doing that all year. … We just have a knack for doing it.”
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