Moore, a 25-year-old with the thick drawl to prove he is from Brandon, Miss., started his season at Class AAA Syracuse. Sunday afternoon, after loopy twists and maddening turns, he delivered a game-winning, two-out, two-run, pinch-hit single in the eighth inning. A few moments later, closer Drew Storen struck out Matt Holliday with an 0-2 slider, and the Nationals had secured their first playoff win in their first playoff game in the most pulse-pounding manner possible.
“Let’s hope they’re not all like that,” said first baseman Adam LaRoche, who scored the Nationals’ first playoff run. “But yeah, I’m sure they’re pretty fired up back home. It looked like we were dead there for a while. To come back with one big swing, it’s big.”
If the Nationals remained calm Sunday, when will they become nervous? Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals’ ace, walked seven batters. Their highest-paid player, Jayson Werth, twice left the bases loaded with two outs. The opposing starter, Adam Wainwright, struck out 10 in 52
3 innings, taking advantage of the shadows that crisscrossed the infield.
“I don’t really know how we won that game, to be honest,” reliever Craig Stammen said. “We pulled it somehow, and that’s kind of how the playoffs go.”
The Nationals still trailed only 2-1 after seven innings because of Ryan Mattheus’s miracle escape in the seventh and Werth’s miraculous catch to rob a two-run homer in the sixth. And Gonzalez, despite the career-high seven walks, allowed only one hit and managed to keep the Nationals within striking distance.
“If we kept them right there, I felt like we were going to win the game,” Werth said. “For whatever reason, I felt like that was our game.”
The wildness and wasted chances and key plays all led to the top of the eighth. Michael Morse led off against reliever Mitchell Boggs and reached on shortstop Pete Kozma’s error. Ian Desmond laced his third hit of the game, a single to right field that pushed Morse to third base.
Up came Danny Espinosa, who after striking out in his first three plate appearances dropped a bunt, even with the slow-footed Morse on third. Desmond moved up to second for Kurt Suzuki, whom Boggs struck him out with a 97-mph fastball.