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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats walk off on A’s; Keibert Ruiz home run wins it...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ walk-off win over the A’s...

Irvin vs the A’s:

Jake Irvin ended his start in the second of three with the A’s in D.C. with a backwards K, with Oakland’s shortstop Nick Allen taking a high, 3-2 curve for a called strike three, with runners on second and third in a 2-1 game in the visitor’s favor.

Irvin, 26, and in the 17th start of his big league career, threw 99 pitches total to 27 hitters he faced, giving up solo home runs by JJ Bleday in the third (on a middle-middle, 1-2 heater the outfielder hit to center field for a 432-foot blast), and Brent Rooker in the sixth inning (on a 1-2 curve outside the Athletics’ DH hit 401 ft. the other way to right from the bottom of the zone outside), but not much else, allowing seven hits total, walking no one, and striking out six.

Coming off a 4 13-inning, 94-pitch outing against the Reds in Cincinnati, in which he gave up five hits (two HRs), two walks, and three earned runs, while striking out six, Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said before Irvin faced the A’s in the nation’s capital, he wanted to see the rookie right-hander go a little deeper in his latest outing. The key to making that a reality?

“It’s efficiency, right?” Martinez asked rhetorically. “Pounding the strike zone, getting early outs, I mean, that’s going to be the key for Jake today, hopefully he can do that, but the most important thing is, as I always say, is throwing strike one, trying to get ahead and work ahead and try to get guys out in four pitches or less. He’s been really good. He’s done a great job for us, so I want him to continue to do that. For some of these guys these August days are pretty tough. That’s part of the learning process as well, so I want to see him go out there today, and like I said, get ahead, compete, get out of the first inning fairly quickly and go from there.”

Irvin threw 14 of his 99 pitches in the first, stranding a one-out double, worked around a hit in a 16-pitch second, gave up the home run by Bleday in an 18-pitch third, retired the A’s in order in a nine-pitch fourth, picked up two Ks and was up to eight-straight set down after an 11-pitch fifth, then he gave up the two-out home run and a single before getting out of a 15-pitch sixth which left him at 83 pitches total, allowing him to go back out for the seventh.

Irvin was 16 pitches into the seventh inning when he was pulled from the mound with two on and two out, and lefty reliever Jose A. Ferrer got a pop-out to strand both runners he’d inherited.

What did his manager think of start No. 17 for the 2018 2nd Round pick?

“I’ll talk about Jake keeping us in the ballgame and giving us what we needed,” Martinez told reporters after the game.

“That was a really important moment for him to go back out there,” he added of Irvin going back out for the seventh. “Gave up two hits and then shut them down, gave it off to Ferrer, and Ferrer coming in and getting a big out for us.”

Irvin and Ferrer combined to keep it 2-1 in the A’s favor through seven, and Ferrer returned to the mound to get three quick outs in the top of the eighth.

The Nats loaded’em up with no one out against Athletics’ reliever Angel Felipe in the bottom of the eighth inning, the fourth time they’d loaded them up in the game, setting pinch hitter Lane Thomas up with an RBI opportunity he cashed in with a game-tying RBI single to right, 2-2.

CJ Abrams grounded into a 1-2-3 DP in the next AB, and Joey Meneses K’d chasing a 3-2 slider out of the zone for out No. 3. Still 2-2 in Nationals Park.

Walk It Off:

Kyle Finnegan tossed a scoreless top of the ninth to keep it tied, then Keibert Ruiz led off in the bottom of the inning with a first-pitch home run on a 96.6 MPH heater from A’s reliever Lucas Erceg, who gave up a 391 ft. blast, a walk-off winner, and Ruiz’s 14th home run of the 2023 season. Ballgame.

Ruiz, who turned 25 last month, has been on quite a run in recent weeks, going 30 for 88 (.341/.410/.546) over the last 25 games (going back to July 9), with six doubles, four home runs, 11 walks, and 11 Ks in 100 PAs over that stretch, but he was 0 for 4 with a K before he stepped in and hit one out to win it.

“He’s staying back, he’s staying behind the ball, he’s starting to drive the ball a little bit, but it’s the chase,” manager Davey Martinez explained before Friday night’s game.

“He’s not chasing. He feels relaxed, he’s hitting better with two strikes, so he’s doing really well.”

It was Ruiz’s first career walk-off home run, and, “... the Nationals’ fourth walk-off win and second walk-off homer of the season,” as the club mentioned in their post game notes.

“Just a great swing,” Martinez said after the game. “Aggressive, in the zone, was ready, got ready on time, stayed back and drove the ball over the fence. He’s been playing well, both sides. His defense has been really good, he’s starting to swing the bat like we know he can, so he’s been awesome.”

Martinez said he’s been impressed with the improvement he’s seen from the Nationals’ No. 1 catcher.

“He’s learned a lot,” the manager said. “His routine. Just going out and playing and like I said, taking care of the now, but he’s done really well. I’ve been impressed by how well he’s handled our pitching staff while he’s bounced back. I’ve asked him to do different things, we’ve asked him to DH. He’s a gamer, he wants to play, he wants to play every day, and he’s going to do everything he can to help us win.”

“I’ve been dreaming for this moment my whole life, and I’m really thankful we got it,” Ruiz said on MASN’s post game show.

Ruiz talked about Irvin’s outing as well, telling Bob Carpenter and Dan Kolko he’s was really impressed with the righty.

“I loved the way he pitched,” the catcher said.

“I love the way he competes. And he showed us tonight. He likes to compete. He was commanding the fastball, the breaking ball was there, the changeup, and he don’t give up.”


“I’ve never seen that before,” Martinez said of the mental lapse by the A’s pitcher. “I’ve been doing this a long time, but [Vargas is] a very smart baseball player. I’ve said that a lot about him.

“He plays the game, he plays the game the right way. A lot of guys wouldn’t see that, he saw it and took off right at the perfect time and beat him to the base.”