Sean Doolittle was perfect, 21 for 21 converting save opportunities for the Washington Nationals before tonight, but the hard-throwing left-hander took the mound in the top of the ninth in Nationals Park, with a 4-2 lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates, and gave up a leadoff single by Andrew McCutchen, and a towering, game-tying, two-run homer to left field by Josh Bell, 4-4.
It wasn’t tied for long. Anthony Rendon (1 for 2, 3 BB, 3 R) singled to start the Nats’ half of the ninth, took third on a single to center by Daniel Murphy, and scored on a walk-off RBI single by Alejandro De Aza. Ballgame. Final Score: 5-4 Nationals.
Nationals now 96-63
HERE’S HOW IT HAPPENED:
• Wilmer Difo lined the first pitch of the night from Pirates’ starter Ivan Nova to left-center for a leadoff double in the bottom of the first and moved up on a sac bunt by Victor Robles, and scored (after a walk by Anthony Rendon) on an RBI single to right by Daniel Murphy, 1-0.
• Edwin Jackson tossed two scoreless, striking out three, but he gave up a one-out walk in the third then hit the Pirates’ pitcher on the hand on what was ruled a foul ball, but it knocked the opposing starter out of the game. One out later, Chris Bostick drove the walk in with a two-out double to center, then scored himself on a soft fly to short left by Starling Marte, 2-1.
• Tyler Glasnow took over on the mound for the Pirates. Anthony Rendon walked for the second time tonight, and took second on a wild pitch to Daniel Murphy, who walked as well, putting two on with no one out in the home-half of the third. Alejandro De Aza, pinch-hitting for Howie Kendrick (who dove unsuccessfully for a ball in left earlier in the game), bunted both runners over/gave up an out, and Adam Lind’s groundout to right side brought Rendon in to tie it at 2-2.
• Leadoff, one-out, and two-out walks, by Adam Lind, Jose Lobaton, and Wilmer Difo, respectively, set the Nationals up with an opportunity to break up the tie in the home-half of the sixth. Edgar Santana took over on the mound for Glasnow, and struck Victor Robles out to keep it tied.
• Edwin Jackson’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 97 P*, 57 S, 3/4 GO/FO.
[ed. note - “* = We (and MASN) had E-Jax at 98P. Gameday disagreed.”]
• Brandon Kintzler retired the Pirates in order in a 10-pitch seventh to keep it tied.
• Anthony Rendon walked for the third time in four plate appearances in the bottom of the seventh inning, leaving him with 84 BB/82 Ks on the season, and he scored one out later on an RBI triple to right by Alejandro De Aza, who took a 97 mph 3-1 fastball from Dovydas Neverauskas to right field for the go-ahead run, 3-2. De Aza scored on a sac fly to center by Adam Lind, 4-2.
• Ryan Madson took the mound in the eighth with a two-run lead and retired the side in order in a 13-pitch frame.
• Sean Doolittle got the ball in the ninth and gave up a leadoff single by Andrew McCutchen and a game-tying, two-run home run by Josh Bell, 4-4. It was the first blown save as a National for Doolittle.
• Anthony Rendon singled to start the bottom of the ninth (1 for 2, 3 BBs), took third on a single to right-center by Daniel Murphy, and scored on a walk-off single by Alejandro De Aza. Ballgame. Final Score: 5-4 Nationals.
NATIONALS PREGAME NOTES:
- Washington starts the regular-season-ending four-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 44-38 lead in the all-time series between the two teams.
- With wins in three of the four games this weekend, the Nationals will tie the franchise record (2005-present) for wins in a season with 98, matching the 2012 Nats.
- Washington’s 50-31 road record this season is the best in the National League, as well as a new franchise record for road wins in a season, and the 50 wins away from D.C. are the most by an NL team since the 2011 Phillies.
- Pittsburgh starts the series having won four straight and five of their last six after losing a season-high seven straight, and the Pirates are 6-13 in their last 19 games.
- Washington’s bullpen has put up a 3.28 ERA in the second half, which leads the NL and is fifth-best in the majors over that stretch.
- Pittsburgh’s pitchers have produced the lowest ERA (3.38) among NL teams in the month of September and the second-lowest in the Majors behind only the Cleveland Indians (2.23).
- Michael A. Taylor is 23 for 66 (.348 AVG) with two doubles, a triple, five home runs, four walks, five steals and eight runs scored in his last 18 games.
- Andrew McCutchen, a notorious Nats-killer, started the series hitting .332 (64-for-193) with 14 home runs and 34 RBIs in 50 career games against the Nationals.
Nationals now 96-63