Nats walk-off magic in Game #35

Honorary Sky Chiefs: Severino, Bautista, Difo, Stevenson (not pictured)

The Sky Chiefs won this game in the 9th inning for the first Nationals walk-off of 2018. Matt Wieters started the 9th inning with an infield hit — yes, you read that correctly. Wieters hustled down the line at his top speed and ignited his team. Instead of pinch-running with Pedro Severino, manager Dave Martinez went with speedster Rafael Bautista right away instead of waiting to see what unfolded with the next at-bat as many managers do with a short bench.

Phillies closer Hector Neris tried to pick-off Bautista and threw an errant throw and Bautista sprinted with no hesitation to 3rd base setting up the tying run. Howie Kendrick was then hit-by-pitch. Michael Taylor walked the bases loaded after showing bunt three times which seemed to unnerve Neris. Then the real fun began and the managerial wheels started to really move.

Davey Martinez with bases loaded put Ryan Zimmerman onto the on-deck circle to pinch-hit for Sean Doolittle but pulled him back for Pedro Severino after the bases loaded. Zimmerman is 2-for-his-last-30 with bases loaded which could have influenced the decision to go to Severino instead although Martinez said after the game that Zim was still stiff with an oblique bruise. Severino on a 3-2 pitch walked the tying run in which brought Wilmer Difo into the game, and he smashed a gapper single to the wall to walk-off for a 5-to-4 win. Personally for Difo, that ‘hit’  extended his hitting streak to 9-games.

The game started off with a 1-to-0 lead after a Matt Adams home run, and all looked great with Max Scherzer besting Jake Arrieta until Scherzer’s pitch count skyrocketed to 111 pitches in the 7th inning and Scherzer gave up a single to Florimon on a 2-strike pitch and he promptly stole second and scored on the bullpen. Scherzer for his effort had a record 15 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings — but unfortunately it wasn’t enough with Jake Arrieta also throwing zeros after the Adams home run. Both pitchers on this day would get a no-decision.

The Nats bullpen gave up 3 more runs, but the Nats offense came alive in the 8th inning and scored two runs thanks to a hustle infield hit by Trea Turner and a 2-out Anthony Rendon 2-RBI single to make it a 4-to-3 deficit.

Dave Martinez went to Sean Doolittle for the top of the 9th inning to keep the game at 4-to-3 and job done by Doo to get the game to the bottom of the 9th for the chance to walk-it-off.

“Max set the tone — he did,” Dave Martinez said. “He gave us everything he had. I told the boys to keep battling, and it’s not over. The boys battled. They battled their butts off, and I’m proud of them.”

Winning this game put the Nats back above .500 and with all the teams in front of the Nats losing in the NL East, the Nats are now within 2-games of 1st place.

“We preach it all the time. ‘Take your walks’. They did,” Dave Martinez said. “I said it in Spring Training — the little things matter.”

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