Washington Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker was not willing to commit to the lineup he put together for the first game of two with the Indians in Cleveland, Ohio's Progressive Field beyond tonight's game.
He mixed things up in the field and in the lineup with Trea Turner in center and leading off, Bryce Harper batting in the two-hole, Ben Revere in left field and Ryan Zimmerman back off the DL playing first.
Baker said he was trying to find a way for Turner to play, according to reporters, including MASN's Mark Zuckerman, so the 23-year-old infielder got his first opportunity to play center field in the majors tonight.
"I’m going to have to play the best lineup that I think gives us a chance to win that day," Baker said this afternoon, as quoted by Zuckerman on Twitter. "And tomorrow, it’ll probably be different."
Tonight the Nationals were playing the Indians for the first time since 2013 when they dropped two of three on the road in Cleveland.
Indians' manager Terry Francona told reporters, including MLB.com's Jordan Bastian, that he was looking forward to the matchup:
"They are built for October baseball," Francona said. "They've got pitching, they've got bullpen, they've got team speed, and they've got power. They put this team together to play in October. This will be fun to play them, because they are good. I hope we beat them. If we do or don't, it doesn't mean anything other than a win for now. They are a team you are going to be hearing from later in the season, because they are really good."
Washington took a 6-4 lead into the ninth tonight in the series opener, but Jonathan Papelbon blew his third save of the season and the Indians walked off on an RBI single by Francisco Lindor...
Here's how it happened:
Turner at the top paid dividends early as he walked, stole second, took third on a flyout to center by Harper and scored on a single to left by Daniel Murphy for a 1-0 lead on Indians' starter Danny Salazar in the first.
Jayson Werth followed with a two-out RBI double to center that bounced off the track at the base of the wall, allowing Murphy to score from first for a 2-0 advantage.
A walk, double and wild pitch allowed the Indians to cut the Nationals' lead in half, 2-1, as Rajai Davis walked, moved up on the ground-rule double by Jason Kipnis and came in from third when Gonzalez crossed Wilson Ramos up.
Carlos Santana's one-out sac fly to left brought Kipnis in and tied things up at 2-2 after one.
Anthony Rendon broke up the tie in the fourth when he hit an 0-2 change out to center for a two-run blast, his 12th of the season, to make it 4-2 Nationals, one out after Wilson Ramos hit a leadoff double off Salazar.
Kyle Crockett took over for Salazar after Trea Turner reached on an infield single in the first at bat of the fifth and completed a scoreless frame.
Indians' righty Jeff Manship gave up a leadoff home run by Wilson Ramos in the top of the 6th, with Ramos hitting a 3-2 two-seamer out to right for his 15th of the season and a 5-2 lead.
Gonzalez settled in nicely and was up to nine-straight Indians' batter set down after a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth. He was up to 10-straight set down when an Abraham Almonte doubled on a grounder over the third base bag ended his night.
Blake Treinen got a ground ball out of Lonnie Chisenhall but it bounced off a diving Anthony Rendon's glove, allowing Almonte to come around from second, 5-3. Treinen got a 5-4-3 DP in the next AB ended the Indians' seventh.
Gio Gonzalez's Line: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 105 P, 68 S, 5/4 GO/FO.
Felipe Rivero took the mound in the eighth. Jason Kipnis reached second on a fly to short center that Trea Turner dove for and missed. Francisco Lindor's single to left moved Kipnis to third. Mike Napoli stepped in next with runners on the corners and grounded into a 6-4-3 DP, but Kipnis scored, 5-4 game after eight.
Anthony Rendon reached on an error, Danny Espinosa reached on a HBP and Ben Revere reached on a swinging bunt as the Nationals loaded the bases with one out in the ninth. Trea Turner stepped up with a chance to add an insurance run and hit a hot-shot to first that Napoli couldn't handle, 6-4. That's all the Nats got, however...
Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth with a two-run lead looking for save No. 20 in 22 opportunities and gave up a leadoff walk to Jose Ramirez and an RBI double by pinch hitter Tyler Naquin that made it a one-run game, 6-5.
Chris Gimenez got a bunt down in front of the plate, and Ryan Zimmerman threw it by Daniel Murphy at first, allowing Naquin to score and tie it up at 6-6.
With the wheel play on, Rajai Davis popped a bunt up over a charging Anthony Rendon to load the bases with no one out, ending Papelbon's outing.
Oliver Perez got the first out on a fly to short left by Jason Kipnis, but Francisco Lindor hit a walk-off winner on a single through the right side, 7-6 Indians.
Nationals now 58-42
- Cleveland started the two-game set with Washington in the midst of a three-game losing streak, but they still had the third-best record in the American League and the sixth-best record in the majors before tonight's game, behind only the Baltimore Orioles (58-40) and Texas Rangers (56-41).
- The Nationals' 58-41 record heading into tonight's game was the third-best in the majors, tied with the San Francisco Giants, and behind only the Chicago Cubs (59-39) and Baltimore Orioles (58-40).
- Before tonight's game, the Nationals held a 5-4 lead over the Indians in the all-time series between the two teams (2005-present).
- In today's Indians-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Cleveland's 30-17 record... since June 1st, was the best in the majors over that stretch, behind only the Houston Astros (30-16).
- Cleveland is 14-4 in Progressive Field since June 1st.
- This week's two-game set in Cleveland was the first with Washington since 2013, when the Nationals dropped two on the road in Ohio.
- Since putting together a 14-game winning streak, the Nationals have dropped 11 of their last 18 games.
- Danny Salazar's 2.75 ERA before tonight was the third-lowest in the American League.
- Ryan Zimmerman returned to the lineup tonight after missing 13 games with a left rib cage strain.
- Jayson Werth started the night with a 28-game on-base streak over which he had 22 hits and 24 walks.
- Daniel Murphy started the night with an 11-game hit streak going, over which he was 17 for 39 (.436 AVG), with seven doubles, five home runs, 17 RBIs and nine runs scored over that stretch.
- Murphy entered play tonight leading the National League in AVG (.355), SLG (.620), OPS (1.012), doubles (30) and multi-hit games (40).
Nationals now 58-42