They started with a runner on second, which helps, but both Carter Kieboom and Andrew Stevenson walked to start the tenth inning last night, taking free passes from Toronto Blue Jays’ reliever Shun Yamaguchi to set up a rally that eventually led to the Nationals’ 4-0 win.
Victor Robles and Trea Turner K’d swinging for the first two outs of the frame, but an Adam Eaton grounder up the middle in the next at bat, bounced off Yamaguchi’s foot in an skate-save type move, and bounced to second baseman Cavan Biggio, who hustled to second to try for a force on Stevenson.
Stevenson was hustling, however, and the 26-year-old outfielder beat Biggio to the bag and the first run of the game scored, putting the Nationals up 1-0, then Asdrúbal Cabrera’s base-clearing triple in the next at bat made it a 4-0 game.
Manager Davey Martinez talked after the win about the patient approach both Kieboom and Stevenson took in the at bats that set up the rally.
“They were great at bats, great at bats,” Martinez said. “In those situations, and we talked a lot about this, man on second base, what we were going to do, and it’s just moving the baseball, trying to move the baseball, work good at bats, trying to get on base, and they both did a great job with that. I didn’t want to bunt, we were playing on the road, I wanted these guys to swing the bat, but they worked two great at bats to get on base, and that’s a testament to just teamwork and getting on for the next guy.”
Stevenson’s baserunning and hustle impressed the skipper as well.
“Great hustle play by Stevenson. But you know, right there, Adam is trying to hit the ball up the middle, but Stevenson, man, he was hustling to get to second base and made it.”
Stevenson, asked if he saw the play developing or just put down his head and raced to the base, said he was just focused on getting to second safely.
“Typically I kind of only have one gear when it’s running,” the 2015 2nd Round pick said, “and it’s kind of wide open. I saw kind of their alignment, so I knew once it hit off the pitcher’s foot that there was a chance that that might be their only play, so like I said, just lucky to beat them and got the win out of it.”
Max Scherzer kept the Jays off the board through 7 1⁄3, and got help from reliever Daniel Hudson after he ran into trouble in the eighth.
He said afterwards that the Nationals needed the win to get their mojo going. Stevenson agreed.
“Definitely,” he said. “When Max is on the mound, we’re trying to get him runs, because you know he battles, he’s not going to give up too many, so once the game started getting later and later, it was like, alright, one run might win this game, so we got to the 9th, 10th inning and were able to scratch a few across and once we got that four-run lead it felt like, alright we got this one.”
Now the Nationals have an opportunity to earn a split of the four-game home and “home” matchup with the Blue Jays.
Does Martinez, who has been open about not liking the runner on second in extras thing, like it more now that it helped his club get a win in their first experience with it?
“Today was good, we won,” Martinez said.
“It’s still — from the seventh inning on I sat there with Tim Bogar, talking about if it does happen what our strategy would be. It kind of brought back more of the typical National League kind of baseball without the DH per se, but it was fun.
“I’m still a fan of just playing the game the way we’ve played it for many years, but we’ll see what happens.
“Today it felt good because we were able to win the game, so hopefully tomorrow we win in regulation.”