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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats walk off on Rockies; take 2 of 3 with four-run rally in 9th...

Notes and quotes from the final day of the Nationals’ 5-1 homestand...

Irvin Keeps Nats In Game:

Davey Martinez gave Jake Irvin credit for leading the way in Washington’s win last weekend over the San Francisco Giants in Nationals Park, talking glowingly to reporters in his post game press conference about the 26-year-old starter’s work in the 6 23 inning, 111-pitch outing.

“Jake set the tone today, so we followed his lead,” Martinez said. “We scored runs. He was really good. He faced 25 batters. He fell behind six of them ... that was awesome. He used his changeup. I think he threw 18-20 changeups.* They started looking for his curveball. He went to his changeup and it was very effective and he threw the ball well. And for me, and I said this before the game, it’s all about pounding the zone, getting ahead, throwing strikes.”

[ed. note - “Baseball Savant counted 11 changeups, 10% of Irvin’s 111 total pitches, up from 5.3% of the time overall this year.”]

Irvin’s 111 pitches were a career for the rookie right-hander.

“Awesome,” Martinez said. “It was a growth moment, for sure, today with him.”

Irvin gave up a run in the first and two in the third, then finished up with 3 23 scoreless in which he held Giants’ batters hitless.

Colorado Rockies v Washington Nationals Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

“Once he starts throwing his changeup and his changeup was effective, then he starts throwing his fastballs, elevated fastballs, and it really helped him,” Irvin’s manager said. “It really did. His fastball was sinking, it was down, it was over the plate, it was really nice. I hope some of the other guys take note: The changeups are effective when you throw them over the plate, and he did that today.”

Irvin also piled up a season/career high in Ks, with nine total, which the starter said was a result of just pounding the zone in the outing.

“Just kind of throwing the ball in the zone, challenging hitters and make them put the ball in play,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco. “Strikeouts don’t really happen because you are trying to strike guys out. It’s just making quality pitches.

Trying to build on the outing in the series finale with Colorado in D.C. on Wednesday, Irvin worked around a single in a 15-pitch first, but gave up a one-out double on a center-cut, 95 MPH 1-1 fastball to Harold Castro, and a two-run homer to left field by Elehuris Montero in the next at-bat, on a 1-1 curve up and not in enough that Rockies’ 24-year-old third baseman hit 374 ft for a 2-0 lead after one and a half.

In the third, Ryan McMahon, who’d singled off irvin in the first, made it 2 for 2 with a one-out solo shot to right-center which landed four rows deep in the second deck, 441 ft from home for a 3-0 lead. It was a 1-0 changeup this time, with Irvin spotting it right where he’d missed with a first-pitch fastball. Irvin issued back-to-back walks after the homer, but stranded both runners, and ended up at 62 pitches total after a 28-pitch frame.

A 15-pitch fourth, in which he worked around a single, and 14-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth pushed Irvin up to 91 pitches, and his 92nd pitch, a fastball up and away to Michael Toglia, went 394 ft. and into the corner of the left field bullpen in left-center for a solo shot and a 4-1 Rockies’ lead.

Irvin finished strong, with three straight outs, two via K, and a 14-pitch frame which left him at 105 for the game.

Irvin did collect 15 swinging strikes, nine with his fastball, and five with his curve, and he got 17 called strikes, 11 of them on his four-seamer in the outing.

Jake Irvin’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 3 HRs, 105 P, 70 S, 3/5 GO/FO.

Since it was working, Irvin threw his four-seamer 74% of the time vs the Rockies, up from an average of 34.4% overall on the season, throwing fewer curveballs (21%, down from 31% this season), and essentially put away his sinker (4%, down from 28.8%), and changeup (1%, from 5.3%), with one of the three home runs on the one change he threw.

“His fastball was really good though today, it really was,” Martinez said. “And I think the home run to the first baseman, he tried to go in, the ball just leaked out over the plate a little bit and he hit the ball to center field, but like I said, other than that his stuff was really good today, and he gave up six hits and kept us in the game.”

Three of the six home runs, of course, were the home runs.

He gave up only six hits. Unfortunately, three of them were homers, but he kept us in the game,” Martinez said.

“Three really bad pitches,” Irvin said of the home runs.

He leaned on his four-seamer he said, because he saw early it was causing Rockies’ hitters issues.

“Shoot, they were struggling with the fastball — the home run to Toglia, but I don’t know if they had a hit on the fastball other than that, so pitch to kind of my strengths and whatever is working, and they weren’t adjusting to the fastball, so use it a little bit more.”

“I haven’t been getting a lot of swing and miss on four-seam this year,” he added, “and they were swinging early, and missing early, so just kind of pitching with what’s working.”


• Trailing 3-0 in the third, the Nationals manufactured a run, with CJ Abrams walking with one out, moving over to third base on an error on a Lane Thomas’ single, and scoring on Jeimer Candelario’s RBI groundout, 3-1 Rockies.

• The one run was all Rockies’ starter Peter Lambert gave up through six, as he held Nats’ hitters to three hits and a walk on just 78 pitches total, 52 strikes, with eight groundouts, five fly ball outs, just six swinging strikes, but 14 called strikes, 11 on his four-seam fastball, which sat at 93 and got up to 94.4 MPH.

“We gave away too many at-bats because we were chasing all day today,” Martinez said in his post game comments, “... so, we play a game like we did last night, come back and play at [12:05], I tell these, part of growing up right now is that you got to grind today. Today is a grind day for some of our young players and veteran guys. It’s not going to be easy, I know it’s hot, but you got to grind.”


Jordan Weems retired the Rockies in order in an 11-pitch top of the seventh.

Lefty Brent Suter took over for Colorado in the bottom of the seventh, with the visitors up, 4-1, and retired the side in order.

Joe La Sorsa got the second and third outs of the Rockies’ eighth after Weems returned to the hill to get the first.

Suter worked another quick frame in the bottom of the eighth.

Andres Machado, who returned to the majors before today’s game, struck out two in an 11-pitch, 9-strike, 1-2-3 frame.

Daniel Bard came on to close it out in the ninth and issued a leadoff walk to Lane Thomas, and fell behind Jeimer Candelario 3-0, throwing seven of his first eight pitches out of the strike zone, then missing with a 3-1 pitch to make it back-to-back walks in front of slugger Joey Meneses, who singled through the left side to load them up. Keibert Ruiz popped up unproductively for out No. 2, but Bard hit Dom Smith to force in a run, 4-2, and give Stone Garrett an opportunity with the bases loaded.

Garrett went to 2-2 with the struggling reliever, and fisted one out to second for out No. 2, but a run scored on the groundout, 4-3. Ildemaro Vargas stepped in with two out and took four balls for a game-tying, two-out walk on the fourth free pass of the inning. Matt Kuch came on to try to send it to extras. CJ Abrams got the opportunity to walk it off, and sent one bouncing through the right side for the walk-off winner. The boys kept fighting.

“We were gonna be patient,” Martinez said of the approach while Bard struggled to find the plate. “I told the guys, ‘Hey, you gotta make him throw you strikes.’ “They did a good job of doing that. Keibert got up with the bases loaded, I said, ‘Look, if you get a pitch to hammer here, go ahead.’ But other than that, they were patient, and CJ with a big hit for us.”

Martinez said he told a coach he believed Abrams was going to win it before he stepped to the plate, so he wasn’t surprised to see the 22-year-old shortstop come through.

“Big moment for him, big moment for our team,” the manager said. “[Abrams] was kind of swinging a little uphill today, and I reiterated again that he needs to hit the ball down, get the ball down, hit the ball down, hit a line drive, a simple ground ball in the hole scored a winning run for him.”