A rally killing pickoff here. A bad pitch there. A blown save after a comeback. A walk that puts the winning run in scoring position. A win streak that ends on a walk-off winner.
There was a lot of drama in Petco Park last night where the Washington Nationals played the second game of their three-game set with the San Diego Padres. The Nats had a chance to win their fifth straight and set themselves up for a series sweep, but with two out in the ninth and a 3-2 lead, Nationals' closer Rafael Soriano left a sinker up in the zone for Padres' first baseman Yonder Alonso, who hit his fifth home run of the year out to right field to tie things up at 3-3 and send it to extra innings.
It was the second blown save of the year for the Nationals' 34-year-old closer and just the second appearance this season in which he's allowed a run to score.
"I tried to go sinker down and away," Soriano told reporters after the 4-3 loss. "And I see the pitch it was high and right in the middle. Nothing that I can do."
"Just a ball up," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said.
"[Alonso] is looking to drive a ball there and he just got it up, middle for him. Soriano has been really good, so we'll take our chances every day with him and a one-run lead in the ninth. Didn't happen for us tonight."
Soriano, as a closer has to, said he was ready to turn the page.
"Probably come back tomorrow and make a better pitch," he said. "Because you cannot win every day. I want to, but it's not possible in this game. I want to win because this guy did his job and I try to do my job too. Tonight it didn't happen. So be ready tomorrow and come back and see."
More often than not this season, the veteran reliever has been the lights out closer the Nationals wanted when they signed him to a 2-year/$28M dollar deal before the 2013 campaign. It's not always pretty, but he's gotten the job done.
After giving up the game-tying run tonight, Soriano has a 1.13 ERA, a 2.82 FIP, nine walks (3.38 BB/9) and 23 Ks (8.63 K/9) in 24 IP so far in 2014.
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He couldn't finish what Blake Treinen started, however. Treinen, 25, was making his first start since May 22nd, and he held the Padres to two runs on five hits in six innings of work, and then, after back-to-back doubles by Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman and a two-run home run by Ian Desmond off San Diego reliever Nick Vincent in the top of the seventh put the Nationals up 3-2, Williams went to his bullpen hoping they could hold the lead and wrap things up for the rookie starter.
"He pitched well," Williams said. "We had an opportunity there to go to our pen which has been so good. Still in the 60s in his pitch count, having such a long layoff and us taking the lead there in the top of the inning. It set up good for us."
It didn't happen tonight though. Soriano blew the save, the Padres tied it at 3-3 and then two innings later won it on a walk-off single by Cameron Maybin that was set up by a two-out single by Chase Headley and a walk by Yonder Alonso in an at bat in which Nats' right-hander Craig Stammen was a little too careful with the Padres' first baseman, who had a .213 AVG after the ninth inning home run.
It was a particularly tough way to lose after a hard-fought comeback. Padres' starter Andrew Cashner, in his first start off a DL stint for an elbow strain, dominated the Nationals through six innings, retiring 16 straight batters after a two-out walk to LaRoche in the first. The Nats scored four runs (two earned) on eight hits in a 4-0 win over the 27-year-old right-hander and the Padres earlier this season in D.C., but they couldn't get much of anything going in the six innings Cashner was on the mound tonight.
At least after the first inning that is.
The Nationals threatened to take an early lead in the opening frame with Kevin Frandsen singling with one down and going around to third on a double by Jayson Werth in the next at bat. But Frandsen was picked off third by Padres' catcher Rene Rivera and after the walk to LaRoche, Casher got an inning-ending groundout from Ryan Zimmerman to complete the first of his six scoreless innings and start the streak of retired batters.
"He just got a little bit too far off," Williams said when asked about Frandsen getting picked off. "It's a designed play by them. It's a signal from the catcher to third baseman or vice versa and they threw kind of an outside slider that he was able to have some momentum going that way. Just wandered off there too far."
The pickoff killed the Nationals' momentum and allowed Cashner to get comfortable on the mound and they never got another chance until he was out of the game.
"We did a nice job of coming back in the game," Williams said.
"Cashner, certainly on a pitch count, him being injured or sore as well, so we were able to get to Vincent there and get a lead, we just couldn't hold it."
• We talked about the Nats' loss, Soriano's blown save, Ian Desmond's home run and Andrew Cashner's hair on the latest edition of Nats Nightly: