A night after they clinched a spot in the NL Wild Card game and partied late into the night, you could have expected and almost forgiven them if the Washington Nationals came out flat in the fourth game of five with the Philadelphia Phillies this week.
The Nats did struggle at the start against Philly lefty Drew Smyly, with a “hangover lineup”, but they ended up rallying from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in a 5-2 win which gave them four wins in a row over their divisional rivals.
“We didn’t get very many hits early,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters after the game, “but we started putting better at bats later in the game. They played well.”
The go-ahead hit in the seventh, which put the home team up 3-2, came from Wilmer Difo, the shortstop who started in place of Trea Turner. Difo singled to center to drive in the run after the Nationals rallied to tie it up.
Difo, who started the season in D.C. but struggled and was optioned to Triple-A Fresno back in mid-May, only returning when rosters expanded, came through with the big hit before the Nationals added two more runs in the eighth to give themselves some breathing room.
“It was huge,” Martinez said of Difo’s hit. “He gets a chance to play and plays good defense, gets a couple hits, a big hit, but he played really well. But we talked about that all year long, about utilizing every guy you have on the roster, but that’s just a perfect example of him just being ready to play when he’s called upon.”
Howie Kendrick was 2 for 4 with a home run in the game, leaving him with a .346 AVG this season. Yan Gomes was 1 for 4 with a double and a run scored. Asdrúbal Cabrera finished the night 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. Brian Dozier hit his 20th homer this season, and went 1 for 4 with a run scored.
Martinez gave Turner and Anthony Rendon a rare night off, ending a streak of 123-straight starts for the third baseman, and got a win that left the Nats +1.0 game up on Milwaukee in the NL Wild Card race, with home field in the Wild Card Game still undecided.
Will they make it five in a row over the Phillies in the series finale?
HERE’S THE NATIONALS’ LINEUP FOR TODAY’S GAME WITH THE PHILLIES:
For the first time at home in September this season…— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 26, 2019
…it’s #STRASMAS.#STAYINTHEFIGHT // #OnePursuit pic.twitter.com/NeY6zdvBvZ