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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats walk off again, sweep A’s with six-run 9th; Jeter Downs wins it...

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

Jeter Downs had just five plate appearances in the majors this season, across multiple stints with the Nationals, and he had no hits when he stepped to the plate for the second time in a ninth-inning rally against the Oakland A’s in Washington, D.C.

Downs, 25, came on as a defensive sub for shortstop CJ Abrams in the eighth, and started it all off with a six-pitch, leadoff walk from Athletics’ reliever Trevor May, then, one out later, the floodgates opened, with three straight singles, the third an RBI hit by Stone Garrett, a sac fly by Ildemaro Vargas, a passed ball, a base-loading walk, a pitching change, to Kirby Snead, an RBI walk, two-run ROE, and, finally, walk-off single by Downs, whose first hit in the majors this year won it for the home team, capping off a six-run rally which erased a five-run deficit.

Downs coming on so Abrams could get a rest in what was a 7-2 game in the eighth seemed to work out pretty well, but, actually, that wasn’t why Manager Davey Martinez replaced his starting shortstop.

“[Abrams] actually had back spasms,” Martinez explained, “... so I wanted to get him out of there, but after the game he was jumping around, so he felt pretty good, obviously, but he does feel a lot better, so I didn’t want to push him, so we took him out.”

It was the first walk-off hit for the 2017 1st Round pick (by the Reds), who was traded from Cincinnati to LA (along with Josiah Gray in 2018), then sent to Boston (in the Mookie Betts trade in 2020), before he was selected off waivers by Washington this year.

“It was the first time the Nationals had overcome a deficit of five or more runs in a game’s final inning since September 3, 2019,” the club wrote in the post game notes, “when they trailed the New York Mets 10-4 in the bottom of the ninth and won 11-10.”

This time it was an 8-7 win. And Washington’s now, “... won their last five consecutive home series, dating back to July [7th], (Texas, San Francisco, Colorado, Milwaukee and Oakland), including series sweeps of San Francisco and Oakland.”

“How about these boys? That’s a ‘boom’, right?” Martinez asked reporters after sweeping the A’s in three straight. “I mean, they battled back. Worked good at-bats that last inning. Once again, I can tell you the bullpen came in, and kept us close, and the guys put some good at-bats together.”

Seeing Downs do what he did with his first two plate appearances since August 8th, meant a lot to the manager.

“Great at-bats,” Martinez said, [ed. note: “Though technically it was — [snarky, pedantic, and unnecessary correction that it was one plate appearance and one at-bat, deleted].”] He got a big walk for us there to start things off, and then he battled, he battled, put the ball in play and got a big base hit for us. I mean, look, he’s been working really hard, and I’ve been watching him, and I’ve been watching him take extra swings, I’ve been watching him work on things, I’ve been watching him take his ground balls, and he’s been really good. And he gets an opportunity today and does something big for the ballclub, so that means a lot.”

“The way it all ended, that’s why we play this game,” Downs said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after the game.

“You don’t ever think about something happening like that, especially down five in the ninth. It still feels surreal at this point.”

It was truly a team effort in the end, which gave the Nationals their 12th of the last 14 in the nation’s capital and the 25th win in the last 44 games overall going back to June 29th.

“We didn’t try to do too much,” Martinez said of his hitters’ approaches in their ninth-inning rally.

“We moved the baseball. But we were very selective. We got some key walks there. We tried to get the ball up again, a little bit, and they were very selective.”

“This team has been relentless,” he added.

“They play hard. They don’t give up. We talk about playing hard for 27 outs, and it shows.

“You can see it. And we’re never out of it. They don’t ever feel like they’re out of it, and they’re going to keep playing hard until the last out.”