Can a player on a last-place team be credibly offended when a player on another last-place team calls him a clown?
The back-and-forth between Washington Nationals’ center fielder Victor Robles and Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitcher Madison Bumgarner over a garbage-time homer turned into a real-life clown show before the Nats’ 4-3 salvage win over the D-backs on Sunday.
Bumgarner accused Robles of showboating by staggering out of the batter’s box after the Arizona lefty had surrendered Robles’s third homer of the season in the eighth inning of Saturday’s 7-2 Arizona win.
After Robles responded Sunday by appearing in the dugout with a large, red clown nose taped over his own, he cost the Nats a chance for third-inning run with the first of two Nationals’ outs on the basepaths.
Robles finished a 3-for-10 series against the Diamondbacks by leading off the third with a single.
Down 2-0, the Nats had their fastest runner aboard with nobody out.
But after taking second on Cèsar Hernàndez’s second sacrifice bunt of the season, Robles was caught stealing third, the first time he’s been thrown out this season after 11 straight thefts.
Manager Davey Martinez wasn’t particularly upset that the 25-year-old cost his team a chance to score, eventually leaving the bases loaded.
“I want him to be aggressive right there,” Martinez told reporters after the game. “We’ve hit into a lot of double plays. I thought that was actually relatively close, it was a good time to run right there.”
Diamondbacks starter Corbin Martin got away with consecutive walks to Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and Nelson Cruz when Yadiel Hernàndez grounded out down the first-base line.
“We got to take some chances here and there. It’s the way the game is supposed to be played. So I was okay with Robles right there trying to steal,” Martinez said.
After the Diamondbacks took a 3-1 lead, the Nats tagged the Arizona bullpen for runs in the sixth, seventh, and eighth.
Meanwhile, their own relievers put together 4 1⁄3 scoreless innings for Washington’s first scoreless bullpen outing since a win over Atlanta a week ago, before the All-Star break.
Jordan Weems got Nats’ starter Erick Fedde out of a two-out, second-and-third jam to close out the fifth inning by getting Sergio Alcantara to fly out to Soto in right.
Carl Edwards, Jr. bailed Weems out of a two-out, two-on situation in the seventh inning by inducing Ketel Marte to line out to Robles in center.
Steve Chisek loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth before getting an infield fly to short from Marte.
Then Kyle Finnegan completed the inning with one pitch, Christian Walker’s ground ball to short, where Luis García’s running underhand flip to Hernàndez at second started a 6-4-3 double play.
Finnegan followed with a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save of the season.
The Nationals pulled within one in the sixth when Kiebert Ruiz pulled a sharp grounder off Caleb Smith past third, where Josh Rojas made a diving stop. Ruiz easily beat Rojas’s throw to first, but the throw skipped past first and stayed in play, allowing Yadiel Hernàndez to score from first and Ruiz to end up on third.
Ruiz was thrown out on a busted squeeze play to kill any further chance of scoring in the sixth.
“It’s a safety squeeze. He just kind of got out in no-man’s land, didn’t know what to do,” Martinez said afterward. “We’ll talk to him about that tomorrow, but he’s got to see the ball down on the ground.”
Ruiz redeemed himself when he capped a 3-for-3 afternoon with the go-ahead single in the eighth.
With Lane Thomas on third base after a leadoff double and Luis García’s first sacrifice bunt of the season, the switch-hitting catcher tagged Arizona lefty Joe Mantiply for an opposite field single.
Josh Bell tied the game in the seventh with a two-out RBI double to the right field corner that scored Cèsar Hernàndez from first.
The ball was initially ruled out of play for a ground-rule double, which would have kept Hernàndez at third. But the Nationals challenged, and the call was overturned, allowing Hernàndez to score.