If you found yourself wondering why exactly Washington Nationals' lefty Oliver Perez pitched to Pittsburgh Pirates' outfielder Starling Marte with two out in the top of the eighteenth when the Pirates' bench was depleted and pitcher Jonathon Niese was due up next, you were not alone.
Marte broke up the 1-1 tie with a solo home run to left in Nationals Park, lifting the Pirates to a 2-1 lead and eventually a win in the third game of three in D.C. after they dropped the previous two.
After the loss, Nats skipper Dusty Baker took the blame for the fact that they didn't tell catcher Wilson Ramos to just put Marte on.
"I saw Niese on deck and that was my fault," Baker said, "because I didn't put the fingers up soon enough to walk him and before I could he hit the first pitch out of the ballpark."
"I knew they were out of men, I knew they were out of players, I knew they were out of pitchers, just like we were and that hurts to make a mistake like that to not -- I mean, I was aware of the situation, but like I said, before I could get Wilson's attention and I had just said it to [Pitching Coach] Mike [Maddux], I just said, 'Hey, man, we've got Niese on deck,' and before I could respond he hit the first pitch out of the ballpark."
Asked if his coaches should have made him aware of the situation, Baker reiterated that he knew Niese was on deck, and the mistake was on him.
"It falls on me," Baker said. "It falls on me. I've got a scorecard right next to me. I don't keep score, but I keep the last outs and double-switches and everything, but there were so many scratches on my lineup card, like who made the last out in the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and the double-switches and stuff and I said, 'Hey man, we've got -- ' I'd said it out loud -- I said, 'We've got Niese on deck,' and then BOOM! it was a home run.
"And it was, like I said, I couldn't get [Ramos's] attention and it happened so fast, especially on the first pitch, I mean, I knew he was on-deck, but I take full responsibility for that action."
The game wouldn't have gone to extra innings if Daniel Murphy hadn't hit a two-out, two-strike home run to right in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game up at 1-1.
Murphy, who sat out of the series to that point with a left hamstring issue, came on as a pinch hitter and crushed a 2-2 fastball from Pirates' closer Mark Melancon, sending a no-doubter into the second deck in right.
It was Murphy's 18th home run on the year. It snapped a streak of 23-straight save opportunities converted by Pittsburgh's All-Star reliever.
"I was saving Murph for a situation where hopefully he didn't have to run and beat out a double play or something," Baker explained.
"This was MVP-caliber in my mind. He's having an MVP season and that was big. Especially off a guy like Melancon who's an All-Star and a very good pitcher."
It wasn't enough, however, as the Pirates took the series finale after five hours and forty-eight minutes and eighteen innings of baseball in the nation's capital.