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Washington Nationals hit late homers to beat Oakland Athletics 11-10 and take series

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The Washington Nationals hit three home runs in the last three innings to power their way to a series-clinching victory over the Oakland Athletics.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Oakland Athletics Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

What started off as a pitcher’s duel ended with some exciting offense as the Washington Nationals beat the Oakland Athletics 11-10 to take two of three from the AL West basement dwellers.

Tanner Roark and Sonny Gray were both dominant early on, but ran into trouble their third times through the lineup.

Oakland led 1-0 heading into the sixth before Trea Turner hit a two-run triple and scored on a Brian Goodwin sacrifice fly to put the Nats ahead.

The following inning, Khris Davis launched a two-run homer against Roark that tied the ballgame at three runs apiece.

After forcing Gray out of the game, the Nats jumped back in front when Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer off Ryan Madson to make it a 6-3 game.

Bryce Harper returned from his three-game suspension for his altercation in San Francisco with Hunter Strickland last week, going 0-2 with three walks and two runs scored.

Despite giving up four earned runs, Roark was at the top of his game for most of the afternoon — he pitched eight innings for the first time this season and picked up 10 groundball outs.

The A’s chased Roark from the game with two outs in the eighth after Chad Pinder hit an RBI double and narrowed the Nats’ lead to two.

Washington’s offense wouldn’t let this one slip away, however, as Matt Wieters and Michael Taylor hit back-to-back homers in the top of the ninth to push the margin up to 9-4.

Harper drew a walk later in the inning, Zimmerman doubled and Murphy drove them both in with a single to make it 11-4 — all of which happened with two outs.

The bullpen, which had been in a groove over the past two weeks, made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth.

Koda Glover relieved Roark with the tying run at the plate, so was therefore still in line for the save when he walked back out for the bottom half inning.

He would not be able to finish the job, however, allowing five straight baserunners to reach without recording an out.

Dusty Baker opted to go to Shawn Kelley to finish the job with no outs, the bases loaded and the Nationals up 11-6.

He retired one man before giving up a grand slam to Matt Joyce, trimming the lead to just one run with two outs to go, 11-10.

Kelley was able to end the game without allowing another run, picking up a save and clinching the series victory.

Nationals now 35-20.

Here’s how it happened:

• Oakland starter Sonny Gray has had an up-and-down season thus far, most recently allowing seven earned runs in four and two thirds innings against the Cleveland Indians last Tuesday. He took the mound in the top of the first and worked a quick 1-2-3 inning. Both Brian Goodwin and Bryce Harper struck out swinging as Gray used just eight pitches to get through the frame.

• Tanner Roark, who entered the game having given up just one run in his previous 14 innings, matched Gray with a routine first inning of his own. He forced two groundball outs and only needed 12 pitches.

• The Nats got their first baserunner of the afternoon when Ryan Zimmerman led off the top of the second with an infield single between short and third. He was quickly erased, however, when Daniel Murphy hit a grounder to second and the A’s turned a 4-6-3 double play. Anthony Rendon flew out to left to end the inning.

• Khris Davis had struggled in the series but he doubled off the wall in left-center field to get things started for Oakland in the bottom half of the inning. Yonder Alonso and Ryon Healy hit back-to-back groundouts that were placed well enough to move Davis 90 feet each time and give the A’s a 1-0 lead. Roark would escape further damage, forcing Stephen Vogt to foul out to Rendon.

• Gray continued cruising in the third. He struck out Adam Lind swinging then picked up two groundball outs courtesy of Matt Wieters and Michael Taylor. After facing the minimum through three, he walked off the mound at just 27 pitches.

• Roark bounced back from his previous frame with a scoreless one. He struck out Trevor Plouffe swinging for the first out and got a lineout straight at Rendon off the bat of Rajai Davis for the second. Roark did then walk Matt Joyce, but Chad Pinder flew out to center and the side was retired.

• The top of the order got another shot at Gray in the fourth. Trea Turner worked a full count and drew a rare walk, but Goodwin grounded into a 3-6-3 double play to bring up Harper with two outs and the bases empty for his second straight at-bat. Harper walked to keep the inning alive, but Zimmerman struck out to leave him stranded.

Jed Lowrie undercut the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the fourth, hitting a shallow fly ball to left that Goodwin had to make a sliding catch in order to grab. Khris Davis flew out to Taylor in center two pitches later and Alonso struck out swinging to give Roark an eight-pitch inning.

• Washington was unable to get anything going in the fifth. Murphy and Rendon were each retired via the groundball and Lind broke his bat on a deep fly ball to center. The barrel spiraled straight toward the on-deck circle and hit the unsuspecting Wieters in the knee. He would take a few moments to return to the dugout, but remained in the game.

• As spectacular as Gray was, Roark was going step-for-step. He took care of the A’s in 1-2-3 fashion in the bottom of the fifth, using another eight pitches to pick up two more groundball outs and a Vogt fly out.

• Wieters drew a full-count walk to start the sixth and the Nats finally had multiple baserunners on at once in an inning when Taylor lined a single into center field. Turner then got his team on the board, hitting a deep fly ball off the wall in right-center for a bases-clearing triple. Goodwin followed with a deep sacrifice fly to left that scored Turner easily from third and made it a 3-1 game.

Gray struck out Harper swinging with a ball in the dirt that would’ve constituted the second out, but the ball got away from Vogt and Harper made it to first without a throw. Zimmerman then struck out on a ball down and away to bring Murphy up with two down, but he lined out to center to end the inning.

• Roark took the mound for the bottom of the sixth with his first lead of the afternoon at 59 pitches. He got the first out of the inning when Goodwin made a leaping catch at the wall on a Rajai Davis fly ball. The second out came at the expense of Joyce, who couldn’t catch up to a 92 mph fastball for Roark’s third strikeout of the game. Pinder flew out to left four pitches later and the game was sent into the seventh.

• Gray came back out for the seventh inning looking to keep it a two-run game. He forced Rendon to fly out to left and Lind to ground out up the middle, but Wieters singled to center on Gray’s 100th pitch to bring up Taylor. The Nationals’ center fielder hit a grounder to third that he might’ve been able to beat out, but Plouffe elected to throw the ball to second for the fielder’s choice with Wieters running gingerly due to his knee.

• The A’s were only able to muster one hit off Roark through the first six innings, but Lowrie led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to center. Khris Davis then followed with a home run off the left field foul pole to tie the game. Roark settled down to retire the next three hitters he faced, but the pressure was back on the offense to put the Nats back on top.

• Oakland manager Bob Melvin decided to go to his bullpen for the eighth with Gray at 104 pitches, ending his afternoon with a no decision.

Sonny Gray’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks, 104 P, 63 S, 9/4 GO/FO

• With Ryan Madson on the mound for the A’s, Turner stayed hot with a single up the middle to lead things off. One out later, Turner stole second and Harper was intentionally walked to give Zimmerman an RBI opportunity. His baserunners made things easier for him with a surprise double steal, but it wouldn’t matter as Zimmerman crushed a 3-1 pitch into the left field seats for his 16th home run of the year and a 6-3 Nats lead.

Madson was able to get Murphy to ground out and Frankie Montas got the call to face Rendon with two outs. Rendon fouled out to first baseman Alonso, but the damage was done.

• Roark trotted back out for the eighth and retired the first two batters he faced. Joyce singled into left to get the bullpen stirring, then forced Dusty Baker’s hand when Pinder doubled into the gap in left-center and scored Joyce from first. Roark was pulled in favor of Koda Glover, who then forced Lowrie to ground out — assisted by a diving play made by Lind — and end the inning, closing the book on Roark.

Tanner Roark’s Line: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 105 P, 72 S, 10/7 GO/FO

• Montas stayed on the mound for the ninth. Lind singled through the shift into right to bring up Wieters, who showed his knee wasn’t hindering him at the plate at all by hitting a two-run homer to left. The Nats wouldn’t stop there though, as Taylor followed with a home run of his own to make it 9-4 Washington.

The Nationals weren’t done there. Harper drew his third walk of the afternoon with two outs, then made it to third when Zimmerman doubled for his third hit of the game. Murphy then joined the party with a single that brought both of them around to score and pushed the Nats’ lead up to 11-4. Josh Smith then came into the get the A’s out of the inning, forcing Rendon to fly out to left.

• Glover, who was still in line for the save despite all the runs Washington scored in the top half of the ninth, stayed in the game to face the heart of the A’s order. He allowed three straight hits to load the bases for Vogt, prompting Baker to make a call to the bullpen and get Shawn Kelley warming. Vogt reached on an infield single — which was the result of an overturned crew chief review — to bring in one run.

Pinch hitter Matt Olson drew a walk with a full count to bring another run in to score, forcing Baker to pull Glover before he could record a single out. Shawn Kelley entered the game with the tying run on deck, making it yet another save situation. He forced Rajai Davis to pop out to shallow center to put one man down, but Joyce stepped to the plate and hit a grand slam over the right field wall to make it an 11-10 game.

Kelley then retired Pinder and Lowrie to pick up the save, but it was an adventurous one to say the least. Somehow, the Nationals emerged with the victory and clinched their fourth straight series win.