Koda Glover’s blown save cost Gio Gonzalez a win over the Texas Rangers on Saturday, but the Washington Nationals were able to get out of the top of the ninth with the score tied thanks to a ridiculous throw in from right field by Bryce Harper on a one-out fly off Robinson Chirinos’ bat.
With runners on second and third, Harper lined up the throw as he got under the ball, made the catch and fired a 98+ mph one-hop strike to Jose Lobaton, who applied the tag for a 9-2 double play.
“You know how you get behind the ball,” Dusty Baker told reporters after what ended up a 6-3 loss to the Rangers in Nationals Park.
“You get behind the ball, you’re taught as an outfielder — you get behind the ball and you get your momentum going toward the target which is home plate and that was an outstanding throw and it was good tag by Lobaton.”
Harper told reporters, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo, that he was happy to be able to throw at 100% strength again, though he has never admitted that an injury limited him when he struggled in 2016.
Harper on his throwing arm: "I’m healthy. Being able to throw a ball with all my might, it’s a lot of fun."— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) June 10, 2017
Even after the blown save by Glover, the Nationals had an opportunity to walk off on the Rangers in the bottom of the ninth. Stephen Drew sent a pinch hit double to the base of the out-of-town scoreboard in right, and his pinch runner, Wilmer Difo, moved over to third base with one down on a groundout by Matt Wieters.
Brian Goodwin went down swinging after working the count full, but Trea Turner came up next and surprised just about everyone (Difo included) with a bunt toward third.
Left-handed Rangers’ reliever Alex Claudio was off the mound quickly, however.
Difo, sprinting from third, stopped in his tracks halfway home when he saw the pitcher field the ball, and was eventually tagged out for the final out of the frame.
Baker was asked after the loss if he’d called for a safety squeeze from Turner.
“No,” he said firmly, “you don’t safety squeeze with two outs...”
As for Difo’s reaction, and the decision to stop running rather than force the issue and continue toward home?
“That’s a tough read,” Baker said, “but if you’re going to go you’ve got to go, especially against a left-hander. He has to turn and throw, might hit you, might throw wild, and you really don’t accomplish anything by stopping, and so like I said, if you’re going to go, then you go. Trea saw the third baseman back, it wasn’t a bad bunt, but the pitcher responded, got off the mound quickly and he could have thrown to first, but he looked at Difo, who was right in front of him and like I said, you either got to go, or you got to stay.”
Difo took the blame for the baserunning gaffe when he spoke to reporters through a translator after the game.
“The bunt surprised me,” Difo said, as quoted by the WaPost’s Castillo. “I thought it was a good bunt to score on. I think I had a chance to score and I made a bad decision.”
The Nationals had other opportunities, of course.
They had two on with one out in the fourth, when Anthony Rendon grounded into an inning-ending double play.
They loaded the bases with no one out in the fifth, but let Rangers’ starter Martin Perez off the hook and left them loaded three outs later, with Jose Lobaton, Gio Gonzalez and Trea Turner going down in order, and though a three-run sixth put the Nationals ahead, 3-1, they went 2 for 9 overall with runners in scoring position and seven left on base on the afternoon.
“That hurts,” Baker said of the missed opportunities, “when you’ve got bases loaded, got a chance to break the game open, and you don’t get anything.
“But you know, you’ve got the eighth and ninth hitter up and we had the wrong guys up.”
The Nationals dropped their second straight to the Rangers with the loss. The NL East-leading Nats will try to avoid a sweep in the finale with Texas this afternoon in D.C.