The Washington Nationals had a chance to guarantee a series win last night in Kansas City. They took a 6-4 lead into the ninth inning, but a blown save by closer Jonathan Papelbon and a walk-off single by the Royals' Lorenzo Cain set up today's rubber match in Kauffman Stadium.
Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker told reporters that that this afternoon's tilt would be a test of what his team is made of after the disappointing loss.
"Tomorrow shows what kind of character we have," Baker said. "After a tough loss and we've got to come back and win this series tomorrow, because we certainly having been playing good ball."
The Nationals bounced back well with a 13-2 win in the series finale.
It certainly helps when the opposition isn't necessarily playing good ball. Two errors on two grounders from the first two batters of the game set Bryce Harper up with runners on the corners and no one out in the opening frame, and Harper, who'd been in a bit of a slump, dropped a bloop single into short center to make it 1-0 early.
Ryan Zimmerman drove Anthony Rendon in with a double to left off Royals' righty Kris Medlen and Daniel Murphy doubled to bring Zim and Harper in for a 4-0 lead before an out was recorded.
An error on Murphy's hit allowed him to take third, and he scored on the third double of the inning, this one by Jayson Werth, 5-0.
Werth moved up on a wild pitch and scored on a sac fly by Clint Robinson that made it 6-0 Nats after a 42-pitch first by Medlen.
Royals' catcher Drew Butera doubled in a run off Stephen Strasburg in the second, and scored on a two-out single to center by Alcides Escobar, 6-2.
A base-loading walk to Jayson Werth with no one out in the Nationals' third ended Medlen's day. and RBI singles by Wilson Ramos and Clint Robinson and a sac fly by Danny Espinosa made it a 9-2 game.
Anthony Rendon brought a run in with a groundout, 10-2, before the top of the third was over.
Daniel Murphy was 3 for 3 on the day after he sent his fourth home run of the season out to right field in the fourth, making it 11-2.
Bryce Harper's solo home run in the fifth made it a 12-2 game. His second hit of the game was a good sign after he's struggled on the road trip. Clint Robinson singled in a run in the sixth to make it 13-2.
Stephen Strasburg gave up the two runs early, but settled in nicely and held the Royals to those two runs on five hits over six innings of work before he was done for the day.
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 95 P, 65 S, 5/4 GO/FO.
Yusmeiro Petit took over on the mound for the Nationals in the seventh and retired the side in order in a seven-pitch, 1-2-3 frame. An 11-pitch eighth left him at 18 pitches over two scoreless.
Blake Treinen handled the ninth. Ballgame. 13-2 Nationals final.
Nationals now 19-8
• NATS NOTES:
- The Nationals' 18-8 record after last night's loss is the third-best in the majors at the moment, behind only Chicago's major league teams, the Cubs (19-6) and White Sox (19-8).
- Last night's win left the Nationals 5-3 in their all-time rivalry with the Royals (2005-present) and 10-4 against Kansas City in franchise history (Expos/Nationals).
- After last night's game, the Nationals pitching staff has a combined 2.36 ERA, good for the second-best staff ERA in the majors, behind only their next opponent, the Chicago Cubs' 2.29 ERA as a pitching staff.
- In today's updated "Fun with Arbitrary End Points Segment", the Nationals' 104 strikeouts... since April 23rd, are the most by any major league staff, and in their last turn through the rotation, Nats' starters have a combined 1.35 ERA with 12 walks and 38 Ks in 46 ⅔.
- Jonathan Papelbon was set to move into 10th place all by himself on the All-Times Saves leaderboard last night, but failed to lock down No. 10 of 2016 and No. 359 of his career, so he remains tied with Troy Percival.
- After Daniel Murphy's 1 for 3 (HR) night last night, he's reached base safely in 22 of 25 thus far in 2016, with 12-multi-hit games in those first 25. He had 13 multi-hit games after he singled in the third for his 2nd hit of the game. He was up to 4 for 4 on the night after a single in the sixth.
- This Date in Nationals' History: May 4, 2008 - Aaron Boone, subbing for Ryan Zimmerman and ending Zim's streak of 205 straight starts, hit his first home run in a Nationals uniform.
- Zimmerman, who's the Nationals' DH today, is 5 for 38 career as a designated hitter, with a double, four walks and 12 Ks in the ridiculous role.
- Stephen Strasburg's start against the Royals today was his first since 2010, his rookie campaign, when he struck out nine and allowed just one earned run in six innings against Kansas City.
Nationals now 19-8