The Nationals teetered on the brink for all 4 hours and 15 minutes, from stranding runners, to running into outs, to shaky relief appearances. They let a three-run lead slip from their grasp, and allowed the Astros to move the winning run to third with one out in the ninth. But the Nationals finally eked out a win in the 11th. Rather than stew over a demoralizing defeat, the Nationals could forget the details and come back Tuesday.
“We’ll take a win,” said starter Edwin Jackson, who struck out eight over 5 1/3
two-hit innings. “Whether it’s good, bad, ugly, however, a win is a win. An ugly win is a better than a good loss.”
The Nationals sealed it on a play that would infuriate Little League coaches. After the Nationals went four innings against the Astros bullpen without a hit, Roger Bernadina led off the 11th with a single through the right side off Wilton Lopez. Catcher Kurt Suzuki tried to move him to second with a sacrifice bunt, which he popped up to the right side, setting up a comical chain reaction. (Watch video of the play here)
Two Astros, Lopez and first baseman Steve Pearce, crashed into each other trying to pick the ball up. “I said, ‘Oh, baby,’ ” Suzuki said.
Pearce scooped up the ball. As he rushed a throw to first, third baseman Matt Downs, just to punctuate the madness, inexplicably dove over the pile of humanity, hands sprawled. With Downs flying through his line of sight, Pearce fired the ball past second baseman Jose Altuve into right field.
“That moment I saw the ball go to right field, I didn’t think,” Bernadina said. “I just kept going.”
Bernadina sprinted to third, and then ignored third base coach Bo Porter’s instruction to stop. As Bernadina raced home, right fielder Brian Bogusevic sailed his throw over catcher Chris Snyder’s head. Bernadina slid in with the go-ahead run. Suzuki, who had bunted, ended up on third base.
“They gave us one,” Manager Davey Johnson said.
The Nationals cemented the theme of making things hard themselves. With Suzuki on third and no outs, Steve Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy each rolled into groundouts, and Suzuki would be stranded.
Craig Stammen made do with the one-run cushion, firing a scoreless 11th after Snyder buzzed the left field foul pole. The Astros moved the tying run to second with a walk and a steal, but Stammen retired Altuve with a hard grounder to end it. Stammen’s two scoreless innings sealed a victory that the Nationals’ bullpen had made exceedingly difficult.