The Washington Nationals won the first two games of their three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates with an unsustainable formula — leaving runners in scoring position early, only to get clutch hits late to narrowly escape.
The Nationals entered Wednesday 2 for 22 with runners in scoring position in the first two games yet won both. Washington finished 7 for 14 in the matinee and still lost.
Reynolds did his damage off three different pitchers — a two-run home run to left-center off Paolo Espino in the first inning, a solo shot to right off Carl Edwards Jr. in the sixth and a three-run blast in the seventh, an opposite field shot into the visitors’ bullpen that had Kyle Finnegan hanging his head the second his pitch made contact with Reynolds’s bat. The last homer proved the difference despite the Nationals (29-49) making the late innings interesting.
Yadiel Hernandez hit a solo home run in the seventh to bring the Nationals within one. They loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but Luis García flew out to left to end the threat.
“Even the last inning, I thought we were going to come back and at least tie the game, but it didn’t happen,” Manager Dave Martinez said. “I’m proud of the way the boys are playing.”
The one-run loss was even tougher to swallow given what transpired at the end of the fifth inning. With runners on second and third and one out, Josh Bell caught a sinking line drive from Ke’Bryan Hayes. Both runners took off on the swing, so Bell threw to third baseman Ehire Adrianza for the apparent third out.
Adrianza tagged Hoy Park first before tagging third base. The umpires said they never saw Adrianza tag the base, although Adrianza said after the game he did. Rule 5.09(c)(4) states a defensive team is required to formally make an appeal throw or tag of a runner who leaves his base too soon, even if it technically would qualify as the “fourth out” of an inning.
Jack Suwinski scored from third right before Park was tagged out, and because the Nationals didn’t formally appeal whether he left the base early, the run counted.
Still, Washington had plenty of opportunities in a back-and-forth contest.
Following Reynolds’s first home run, Washington recorded five hits off Pirates starter Mitch Keller. Bell doubled and Nelson Cruz singled on the next pitch to score Bell. Then Cruz came in to score on Keibert Ruiz’s single to knot the game at 2.
Juan Soto, who entered Wednesday hitting 7 for 56 (.125) with runners in scoring position, doubled with two outs in the second inning to score Adrianza. But the Pirates took the lead back after Daniel Vogelbach’s home run in the fourth off Espino and the bizarre sequence that accounted for a run in the fifth.
The Nationals pushed ahead in the bottom of the inning behind run-scoring hits from Ruiz and Yadiel Hernandez, and both had a chance to score on César Hernández’s bloop single with two outs.
Ruiz thought there was one out in the inning and waited until the ball dropped, so Hernandez was right behind him, and both dashed for home. Ruiz just beat the throw from left field, but Hernandez was tagged out at home.
Reynolds homered in each of the next two innings, and finally the Nationals ran out of answers.
“It was his day today,” Ruiz said.
“We had 16 hits, had seven runs,” Bell said. “Yes, we could have hit more. I mean, there’s always opportunities to drive in more runs. But I think that it seemed like we had a lot that we had to make up. And I’ll just leave it at that.”
What else does Rule 5.09(c) (4) say about appealing? Plenty. “Appeal plays may require an umpire to recognize an apparent ‘fourth out.’ If the third out is made during a play in which an appeal play is sustained on another runner, the appeal play decision takes precedence in determining the out. If there is more than one appeal during a play that ends a half-inning, the defense may elect to take the out that gives it the advantage. For the purpose of this rule, the defensive team has ‘left the field’ when the pitcher and all infielders have left fair territory on their way to the bench or clubhouse.”
How has Mason Thompson pitched in his rehab stints? Thompson (biceps tendinitis) made his third relief appearance in the past seven days for Class AAA Rochester on Tuesday night. He pitched two innings and allowed two hits, but recorded his third scoreless outing with the Red Wings. Martinez said his next step will be pitching on back-to-back days and throwing multiple innings.