Two pitches into his pinch-hit at-bat, Brown lifted a ball to right field to give the Nationals a patience-testing and zany 7-6 win over the Marlins. Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, playing to prevent any doubles, tracked down the ball but it squirted out of his glove. Ian Desmond, holding up at third base, then raced home.
Brown capped the dramatic ending but Jayson Werth started it. In the first at-bat after the delay, Werth led off the bottom of the ninth with a game-tying home run off Marlins closer Heath Bell. It was yet another absurd ending to a Nationals game, six hours after it started.
“Had a nice little rain delay,” Werth said. “Got a little massage, changed clothes, had a chicken salad and tied it up. It was well-written.”
It was the Nationals’ 18th win this season in their final at-bat. They maintained a 6.5-game lead in the National League East, their magic number to reach the clinch the division dwindling to 17.
“I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time,” Brown said. “It felt good I was able to get the job done.”
Fast-moving clouds, winds and rain consumed Nationals Park in the top of the ninth inning while reliever Tyler Clippard pitched to keep the Nationals’ deficit at 6-5. Starter Ross Detwiler settled down from a rocky start, a small strike zone and a fielding error behind him to toss five innings, allowing five runs, three earned. The frustration over balls and strikes even got Monday’s starter, Gio Gonzalez, ejected from the dugout in the first inning by home plate umpire Todd Tichenor for arguing balls and strikes.
The Nationals chipped away at the Marlins leads of 3-0 and 5-2 with solo home runs by Jesus Flores in the third inning and Bryce Harper in the fifth and an RBI single by Danny Espinosa in the fourth, all off Marlins starter Mark Buerhle.
Ryan Zimmerman slammed a two-run home run in the eighth inning that chopped the deficit to 6-5. Espinosa and pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina struck out with two runners in scoring position, ending the Nationals’ chance to take the lead in the inning.
Then came the rain. Clippard worked under the drizzle but after he notched three outs it was too much to continue. Dust, trash and water blew across the sky. Players retreated to the dugouts to wait and wait.
There appeared to be an opening to resume play around 6 p.m. General Manager Mike Rizzo was worried the game would be called with three outs remaining. They waited 15 minutes and decided to move quickly before rain resumed. Teams were given an 11-minute notice. Bell warmed up on the mound.
Werth had been watching clips in the video room and talking with Troy Gingrich, Class AAA Syracuse’s hitting coach who helped him during his rehab stint this season. He ran to the underground batting cages and took some swings.
“Didn’t have long, a whole 11 minutes to get ready,” Werth said. “Everything happened kinda fast.”
After waiting for 153 minutes, Werth’s at-bat lasted three minutes. Like he normally does, he fouled off three pitches and worked Bell into a 3-2 count. Bell fired a 95-mph fastball up and Werth crushed perhaps his longest home run of the season, deep into the Red Porch seats in center field to tie the game at 6. The Nationals were headed to their major league-leading 19th extra-inning game of the season, and second in as many nights.
After the Marlins chased Detwiler, four Nationals relievers combined to allow only two hits and one unearned run over the final five innings. Christian Garcia, Drew Storen and Clippard struck out eight of 10 batters they faced. Storen struck out all three in the 10th inning with a biting slider, allowing the Nationals to take the lead.
Adam LaRoche led off with a single to right field off Chad Gaudin. Desmond pushed a ball through the right side of the infield, perfect placement to allow LaRoche to get to third base. Gaudin intentionally walked Espinosa to load the bases.
Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen resorted to a rarely used fifth infielder, bringing left fielder Justin Ruggiano in play in front of second base, to cut down the winning-run at home. “I’ve never seen it work,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said.
This time, it did. Catcher Kurt Suzuki chopped a ball up the middle and Ruggiano threw out LaRoche at home. And now, Johnson sent in pinch-hitter Brown for only his second at-bat since being recalled four days before. He watched some of the Florida-Texas A&M football game and took some hacks in the batting cages when he heard the game would resume, thinking he would be in this situation.
After he lifted the game-winning hit to right field, the Nationals mobbed Brown in the infield, first to bear hug him Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi, teammates from the minor leagues. The long wait for an end was over.
“What a game,” Johnson said.