Nats, Down 9-0? No Problem! Astros Walk Off in 9th

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Hi all.  Here’s  how I see baseball on this Friday, July 6.  While last night’s schedule was light there were a couple of beauties, one featuring the defending World Series winners and another featuring a team that has underachieved from day 1.

In Washington, this hasn’t been the season the Nationals’ players or fans had hoped for.  They’re not as far gone as the Mets, and just maybe last night’s improbable 14-12 win over the Marlins may cause them to find a higher gear to play in during the second half. The game started out like the last 5 Nationals games have up to now, games that ended in defeat.  The Marlins, who rarely get 9 runs in a week put up a 9-run lead at Nationals Park over the first 4 innings. In spite of being sick all week, Starter Jeremy Hellickson took one for the team as he gave up all 9 Marlins’ runs in the 4 innings the ailing starter lasted. He had little choice.  Tanner Roark had been battered for 9 runs on Tuesday and the bull pen had few answers.  6 of the Marlins’ runs came in the 2nd inning with Martin Prado’s 3-run home run adding the exclamation point. Justin Bour (Bore) sent a 2-run shot into the sultry Washington night 2 innings later.

If the Nats had a comeback in them, you would think Bryce Harper would be on the front lines.  But last night it was Trea (Tray)  Turner shocking the baseball world.  His show began with an ordinary solo home run in the 4th, making it 9-1.  It would have been a forgettable home run under normal conditions. An inning later the Nats set about proving that this would not be a normal night. It started innocently enough with a bases-loaded walk and Turner driving  home a run on a fielder’s choice.  So it was 9-3, big deal.  If I were a Marlins’ supporter that grounder wouldn’t make me put down my daiquiri.  From here on though, things began to get ugly for the visitors.  Juan Soto, baseball’s answer to Billy the Kid doubled home two runs in a 4-run 5th.  He jolted one off the wall in right center.  An inning later, following a scoring fly ball by Daniel Murphy, Turner struck again for a grand slam making it 10-9 Washington with the game 2/3 of the way along. You would expect a grand slam making the score 10-9 to be a walkoff winner but this game still had a ways to go.  The Nats’ leadoff batter had one more gaff to puncture the Marlins’ hopes. In a 4-run 7th  he singled two more runs home, and Soto struck again with an RBI-single.   The Nats’ exhausted bull pen needed all the help it could get. The Marlins’ Brian Anderson crushed a 3-run shot in the 8th off Kelvin Herrera who the Nats had acquired to prevent that sort of thing.  But Herrera had thrown 30 pitches Wednesday night and had little to offer. As it happened, closer Sean Doolittle was on his mettle and collected his 22nd save.  When the dust had settled Turner had 8 RBIs for the night.  It was a career-high for him and it equals the most RBIs in a game by any leadoff hitter in the majors at any time.  First baseman Matt Adams notched 4 hits on the night of the largest comeback in Nationals’ history. I recall the game where they made their largest comeback before last night.  It was on April 28, 2015 against the Braves.  I was right at the end of a 3-month hospitalization and ESPN must have run the highlights a couple of dozen times at least. In their Expos’ days the team came back from a 9-run deficit against the Giants in 1997.

Going back to last year, it doesn’t surprise an Astros’ fan when their team pulls out a win in their last turn at bat.  They did it a couple of times in the last World Series and have continued in the same pattern during the first half of this season. Last night was more of the same.  It helped that Justin Verlander struck out 10 White Sox, keeping the game close and hoping for the best. It was 3-2 in favor of Chicago as the home-standing Astros came to the dish in the home 9th. The rally began with the help of two pinch-hitters.  Tony Kemp walked and Marwin Gonzalez singled to bring up slumping star George Springer.  Slump or no, he singled home Kemp.  With the bases loaded Yuli Gurriel picked up the first walk-off base hit of his career. Until the 9th, the only Astros’ offense had been a home run by Jose Altuve to a roar of MVP chants from the crowd. It was a 2-2 game when  Verlander left.  In the 8th, the Astros’ Chris Devenski gave up a home run to Leury Garcia, making it 3-2 and setting the stage for the 9th-inning drama.

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