After the Nationals’ 4-2 win last night, Manager Jim Riggleman readily acknowledged, “We got a lot of breaks tonight.” The Nationals played well, particularly on defense, and Danny Espinosa provided a monster, clutch home run. But they also took advantage of moments when things just went their way.
The Pirates made a few odd base running moves, John Lannan pitched around 11 base runners in 6 1/3 innings and Drew Storen wriggled out of a jam with a rocket to left.
In the third, Lannan received a dual assist from his defense and overly aggressive - that’s a euphemism for “foolish” – base running. Brandon Wood led off with a four-pitch walk, and Chris Snyder followed with a single to right-center. Wood raced around second for third. Roger Bernadina made a strong throw to third, and Hairston made a better scoop-and-tag, picking the ball with a backhand, shuffling to the base and nailing Wood.
“That was a great play,” Riggleman said. “The velocity that Bernie threw the ball with, and the hop that Jerry had to pick there and a put a tag on at the same time.”
Said Hairston: “You prefer either a long hop or a short hop. You don’t want an in-between hop. It was a short hop.”
With pitcher Paul Maholm batting, the Pirates still had two runners in scoring position with one out and Andrew McCutchen on deck. So the Pirates attempted a squeeze bunt. When Maholm whiffed on a bunt, Snyder had ventured halfway down the third base line. Wilson Ramos started a run down that ended with Lannan tagging Snyder out. The Pirates had two runners in scoring position and one out and McCutchen on deck. They turned that into nothing once Lannan struck out Maholm looking.
While the Nationals receive a break there, they also made some of their own luck. Bernadina made an excellent throw after fielding Snyder’s single smoothly, and Hairston’s play was impressive.
And Lannan managed to dodge trouble all night. He seven hits and four walks while allowing just two runs, only one of which scored with him on the mound. He was not anywhere close to his best, leaving pitches higher than he wanted, but he found a way to bring the ball down.
“I need to kind of take a step back and just breath,” Lannan said. “My first couple years, I was hard-nosed. I kept on pushing, not making the adjustment the way I should have.”
In the ninth, Storen nearly lost his scoreless innings streak, which he extended to 21 innings after a harrowing ninth. He yielded a pair of hard-hit singles, and with one out McCutchen came to the plate. Storen hung a first-pitch slider, and McCutchen eviscerated the pitch on a line – right at left fielder Laynce Nix. He took two steps back and made the catch.
Had McCutchen gotten under the pitch or found a gap, we would have a different story this morning. Instead, the ball found Nix’s glove, Jose Tabata flied out on a 96-mph fastball and the Nationals won.
“Drew hung one up there a little bit, and he crushed it,” Riggleman said. “Fortunately for us, we caught a break.”
FROM THE POST
Danny Espinosa snapped out of his slump with a home run that gave the Nationals a 4-2 victory over the Pirates in the series opener.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse was rained out.
Harrisburg was off.
Frederick 3, Potomac 2: Eury Perez went 1 for 3 with a steal. Sandy Leon went 2 for 4. Trevor Holder allowed three runs in eight innings on six hits and no walks, striking out five.
Hagerstown 8, Lakewood 3 (12 innings): A day after his 18-game hitting streak ended, Bryce Harper went 0 for 5 with a walk, run and a strikeout. Blake Kelso went 3 for 6. Taylor Jordan allowed three runs in six innings on seven hits and two walks, striking out five.