Washington took two of four from San Francisco on the road in AT&T Park, and took two of three from the Giants in Nationals Park this past weekend to win the season series with the current NL West division leaders.
Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker, while stressing that he took nothing for granted, talked before and after the three-game series in D.C. about how important it was to win head-to-head matchups with teams like the Giants and other teams that might end up being postseason opponents.
“This is big,” Baker said before the series opener.
“For those of us that have been in the playoffs many times, you realize how important these head-to-heads are at the end, but those that haven’t been in there, at the end they wish that we had done or played better — because if we had to end the season [today], we’d have start in Chicago, or if we had to [stop] the season now, we end up tied or something, we’d have a playoff game in LA, which isn’t to our favor.
“And you could very well have to go through San Francisco.”
Wins on Friday and Sunday night gave the Nationals the season series with the Giants, 4-3, after they dropped 5 of 7 to the Cubs and 5 of 6 vs the Dodgers this season.
“That’s big,” Baker said after the tense 1-0 win over the Giants in the series finale.
“That’s real big. We knew that coming into this game. Especially [considering] the fact, like I told you guys yesterday, that we lost the season series to the Dodgers and to the Cubs and so we really needed this one, big time, because we could very well see San Francisco again.”
Baker was impressed with the quality of baseball the two teams played as well.
“It was a very high quality baseball game. We played error-less ball, they played error-less ball — except for one error late in the game — and they had Madison Bumgarner, any time he’s on the mound you know it’s going to be a low-scoring game for the most part. He’s not throwing quite as hard, his velocity is down a little bit, but he hides the ball well and changes speeds off his fastball, he pitches in/out and he had a real good breaking ball when he needed it, so... and we hit some balls hard off of him, we hit some balls even though he threw a two-hitter, we still hit some balls hard.”
One of the two was hit hard enough to go out.
Wilson Ramos took an 0-1 pitch from Bumgarner for a ride to right in the first at bat of the Nationals’ half of the seventh for the only run of the game for either team.
Tanner Roark tossed seven scoreless before Ramos hit the home run, but the Nationals’ starter needed help from his defense to escape a jam in the the top of the seventh.
With runners on second and third, Brandon Belt hit a long fly ball to deep center on which Ben Revere made an amazing, over-the-shoulder catch as he approached the white 402 ft marking on the outfield wall.
“Ben saved the game, cause, boy, that was a Willie Mays catch right there,” Baker told reporters after the game, “and, boy, that was big.
“He wasn’t hitting much, but when you make a play like that to save the game and then Big Wilson hit one to right-center — we were hoping that it was out and it carried out of the ballpark and that was really all [Tanner] needed.”
Baker was asked for his thoughts as he saw the ball leave Belt’s bat and watched Revere start to race after it.
“What goes through my mind is, No. 1, stay in the park,” Baker said.
“We teach the outfielders to flip your head around quickly so that you stay on the same line as the ball and that’s what Ben did.
“If he hadn’t flipped his head around he could have been off two or three feet and then the ball is off the wall or a double and they’ve got two runs.
“The first thing, like I said, is ‘Stay in the park,’ and then we start rooting like, ‘C’mon Ben!’”
Revere made the catch and Ramos homered, then the Nats’ relievers did their jobs.
Shawn Kelley and Mark Melancon made quick work of the Giants’ hitters in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
The win on Sunday was the Nationals’ 7th in the last 10 and their 12th in 21 second-half games so far. It left them 21 games over .500 with a 7.0-game lead over Miami, atop the NL East. It also left them 16-13 in one-run games this season.
Up next, two with the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians and three with the Braves before the Nationals head out on the road for a nine-game trip to Colorado, Atlanta and Baltimore.