Washington Nationals Won't Quit, Battle Back To Beat Baltimore Orioles, 7-6.

Zack Galifianakis shouted the ceremonial "Play Ball" before the O's and Nats' Interleague matchup on Saturday afternoon. (Photo © Cheryl Nichols from the Nats News Network (baseballphotosbycheryl@gmail.com).

Tonight's Top 5: 

5. Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez Leaves Game With Back Issues: The official word from the Nationals after Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez was lifted from the game in the fourth was that the 38-year-old veteran catcher had a "lower back strain". The Nats' backstop grimaced noticeably after he took a healthy cut on a 91mph fastball from O's starter Brad Bergesen with two outs in the fourth and the reaction drew the Manager and trainer out to the plate. In the post game press conference I asked Washington's Manager Jim Riggleman if it was the same problem Pudge has been dealing with all season?:

Jim Riggleman: "I don't know. You know, it's been there for a while. That one swing, he felt something and he assured me that he's ok, but I said, 'Why don't you bunt one here and let's reevaluate this,' you know, and he said, 'No, I'm good,' and was swinging and took a good swing, but we decided to get him out of there anyway. Hopefully it will be something where he can get back in there Tuesday maybe Wednesday." 

If Pudge is out for any length of time, who do the Nats turn to? Jesus Flores in nowhere near ready. Jamie Burke and Chris Coste are both currently on the DL...Devan Ivany?

4. Nyjer Morgan Meltdown Continues, Gets Ugly: Adam Jones got an 0-1 fastball up and in from Nats' starter Craig Stammen with two out and one on in the fourth, and drove it to deep center. Nyjer Morgan tracked it, leaped at the wall and had it bounce off his glove. Morgan clearly thought the ball had gone over the wall and while he threw his glove to the ground in frustration, the ball sat on the track next to his hat which had popped off on the play. Josh Willingham tried to tell Morgan and finally just recovered the ball himself and threw in but by that time Jones was rounding third and for the second time in a week, a misplay on a fly to center became an inside the park HR against the Nationals. Asked by the Nationals beat writers why Morgan wasn't pulled from the game as just about everyone expected after Morgan's frustrated reaction, the Nats' Skipper explained:

Jim Riggleman: "My first instinct was to take him out of the ballgame, and then I realized, you know what, he thinks the ball went over the fence. He thought that he knocked it over the fence and it's a home run so he's showing frustration. That doesn't excuse it, and I don't want it to be perceived as an excuse but it explains it..."

The crowd wasn't nearly as forgiving, booing Morgan in his next at bat, though the single he hit brought some back to his side. 

3. Stammen Does It All Himself...Again...But Struggles On The Hill: Nyjer Morgan's misplay in center and the two-run inside the park HR that resulted, came a half-inning after Nats' LF Josh Willingham had tied the game at 2-2 after three with his 7th HR of the season, this one a two-run blast to left off O's right-hander Brad Bergesen. Nats' right-hander Craig Stammen responded to the blown lead on a ball that should have been caught by hitting a double off the base of the wall in left in the Nats' half of the fourth. Nyjer Morgan (in the at bat mentioned above) singled to move Stammen to third, and Cristian Guzman singled the pitcher in to bring the Nats within one at 4-3 Baltimore after four. After the double, Stammen's hitting .353 (6 for 17) with 2 doubles and 4 RBI's. The HR he surrendered in the sixth though, a two-run blast by Ty Wiggington ended Stammen's outing after 5.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 1 K and 2 HR's allowed on 82 pitches, 53 strikes. The good news? An 11/3 GO/FO performance...

2. Bernadina's RBI Triple Starts Rally: Down 6-3 in the sixth, the Nats rallied to take the lead in the home-half of the frame with Adam Kennedy singling to start the frame and scoring on an RBI triple to right by Roger Bernadina, who scored himself on a single to center by Alberto Gonzalez. After a sac bunt by Morgan to move Gonzo up, a HBP on Guzman and a base-loading single by Ryan Zimmerman gave Adam Dunn a chance to put the Nats ahead, which he did with a two-run single to center to make it 7-6 Nats after six. 

1. 16 for 16? Nats' lefty Sean Burnett strikes out two and gets a grounder to complete a scoreless seventh. Tyler Clippard returns to form, striking out one and popping up two in the eighth and then the sound of Europe's "The Final Countdown" filled Nats Park as Matt Capps emerged from the bullpen for the 16th time this season. 11 pitches, two swinging K's and a groundout later the Nationals' closer had notched his 16th save in 16 opportunities, closing out the 7-6 win which sets up an Interleague rubber match on Sunday in DC....

FULL GAME REPORT: 

1 - Corey Patterson flies out to short left to start the late afternoon affair under grey skies in Nats Park. Nick Markakis battles Nats' right-hander Craig Stammen for eight pitches and eventually lines a single to center for the O's first hit. Miguel Tejada follows with his own single to center and Nyjer Morgan misplays it, allowing Markakis to take third. Luke Scott lines sharply to Adam Kennedy at second. Two down. Ty Wiggington lines to center, two runs score, 2-0 Orioles. Matt Wieters skies the final out of the inning to left, 2-0 O's after a half...Nyjer Morgan pops up a bunt attempt. O's right-hander Brad Bergesen gets the first out of the game. Cristian Guzman singles to right to start the Nats' offense off. Ryan Zimmerman sends a dribbler toward third and beats Miguel Tejada's throw to first. Adam Dunn lines out to right, Guzman takes third. Two down. Josh Willingham works a two-out walk. Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez flies out to center to end the first. 

2 - Craig Stammen gets a weak grounder to short from Adam Jones. One down. Cesar Izturis K's looking at an 0-2 slider. STARE AT IT, CESAR!!! Brad Bergesen grounds out to Dunn, 2-0 O's in the second...Adam Kennedy grounds weakly to second to start the Nats' half. Roger Bernadina drives a low two-strike pitch through the right side of the infield. Sac bunt by Stammen moves Bernadina up, but a Nyjer Morgan groundout ends the second. 

3 - Stammen gets a weak grounder to second out of Corey Patterson. One down. Cristian Guzman dives awkwardly and has a sharp grounder from Markakis bounce off his glove. Miguel Tejada grounds to short, Guzman shuffles to Kennedy, to Dunn double play...Cristian Guzman grounds weakly to second to start the Nats' third. Ryan Zimmerman singles to left center off Bergesen. Dunn up with one on, one out. Adam Dunn K's swinging. Two down. Josh Willingham connects on a first-pitch fastball and drives it deep to left and GONE!!! Two-run HR, 2-2 game. Pudge Rodriguez grounds to second to end the third with the score tied at 2-2. 

4 - Adam Kennedy drops a grounder up the middle from Luke Scott after it bounces off Stammen's glove on the mound, and the first batter of the frame is on. Ty Wiggington grounds back to Stammen, who gets this one. Matt Wieters flies out to Nyjer Morgan in center, two down. Adam Jones flies to deeeeeep center, Morgan's on it, he leaps at the wall and misses. Then tosses his glove in disgust after the miss while the ball lies on the track. Jones rounds the bases and scores behind Scott, inside the park HR. 4-2 O's. Izturis grounds out to end the O's fourth...Adam Kennedy flies out to center, one down. Roger Bernadina grounds out to first. Craig Stammen doubles to left and off the base of the wall with two down. Nyjer Morgan hears it from the crowd when he comes to bat, but they cheer him some when he singles. Stammen to third . Cristian Guzman singles through short, Stammen scores, 4-3 O's. Zimmerman grounds into a force at second that ends the fourth. 

5 - Bergesen tries to hit like Stammen, but settles for a single through second to start the fifth. Corey Patterson grounds to second, Guzman fields, steps on second and throws to first, double play. Nick Markakis grounds to third, Ryan Zimmerman picks it, drops it and recovers in time to make the throw...Adam Dunn flies out to Markakis in right, one down. Josh Willingham grounds out to Izturis at short. Wil Nieves grounds out to third to end the fifth. 

6 - Miguel Tejada rips a sharp grounder by Zimmerman and through short to start the sixth. Ty Wiggington takes a 1-0 offering from Stammen, deeep to left, and GONE!! Two-run blast, 6-3 Orioles. Matt Wieters singles up the middle to chase Stammen. Tyler Walker takes over. Adam Jones pops up to Nieves, two down. Cesar Izturis singles to the left center gap with two down. Wieters singles, but Bergesen grounds out to third to end the O's sixth...Adam Kennedy starts the Nats' sixth at the plate. Kennedy lines to right and it falls in fair when Markakis misses on the diving attempt. Roger Bernadina rips a line drive to right and it falls in fair just inside the line. Kennedy scores, Bernadina's on third in the blink of an eye. 6-4 O's. Pinch hit single for Alberto Gonzalez, Bernadina scores from third. 6-5 O's. Mark Hendrickson's on in relief. Morgan's sac bunt moves Gonzalez to second. One down. The Guz gets hit by a pitch from Hendrickson and Zim's up with two on. Grounder to short, Zim beats the throw to first, bases loaded for Dunn. Adam Dunn rips a single through the shift, two runs score, 7-6 Nats. Willingham moves both runners up with a groundout to short. Wil Nieves flies to right to end the sixth. 

7 - Sean Burnett starts the seventh on the mound for Washington. Swinging K from Corey Patterson on an 0-2 slider to start the seventh. Nick Markakis K's looking on a 2-2 fastball outside. Miguel Tejada grounds to second, Kennedy "Belliard's" it, dropping it before making the throw...Adam Kennedy leads off the Nats' seventh. Leadoff walk. Bernadina bunts it too hard and Tejada throws to second for the force. Pinch hitter Mike Morse singles through short, Bernadina takes second. Nyjer Morgan's DP grounder ends the seventh. 

8 - Tyler Clippard starts the with a swinging K on a 94mph fastball upstairs. Ty Wiggington pops out to Dunn in foul territory off first. Matt Wieters pops out to Guzman in short left, Clippard throws a quick 1-2-3 eighth...Cristian Guzman singles to right center. Ryan Zimmerman walks to put two on for Adam Dunn. Dunn flies to right, Adam Jones gets there, Zimmerman takes off and gets doubled up at first. Josh Willingham gets the intentionals in front of Wil Nieves. Nieves grounds out to short, the O's take the force at second. 

9 - Matt Capps on to close it. Adam Jones K's swinging when he can't hold up on a 2-2 fastball. Cesar Izturis K's swinging. Scott Moore grounds to third, ballgame. Nats win, 7-6 final. 

Nationals now 22-22. 

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