Nats win their 9th straight road game & for now share 1st place!

Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats

The Nationals bullpen threw a 4-inning shutout to hold a 1-run lead and secure the 3-to-2 win in this Jeremy Hellickson start. This extends the Nationals winning streak to 5-games and their road winning streak to 9 in a row. With this win, the Nationals are in a tie for the moment for 1st place in the NL East and will either take sole possession of 1st place or move back to a  1/2 game behind the Braves depending what the outcome is in the Braves game tonight. With the officially announced sparse attendance of only 13,935 in Baltimore, the Nats fans were heard like a home game in Nationals Park in support of their team.

“I didn’t know we were in first place,” manager Dave Martinez responded when he was told that. “Taking it one day at a time. It’s a great feeling. It really is. It’s a testament to those guys (pointing). Not me, those guys that go out there and grind it out.”

The scoring offense came from solo home runs courtesy of  Bryce Harper and Mark Reynolds, and the Nationals other run came on a Wilmer Difo RBI single. The Nats managed 12-hits and 2-walks and only capitalized on 1-of-12 RISP opportunities which was Difo’s single. Pedro Severino left 7 on-base and watched his batting average drop to .218. Squandering that many chances in a one-run game bit the Nationals multiple times in the month of April, but tonight it is just forgiven because the team won. On this day, it was just enough.

“You always think that when you have so many chances to score runs and you can’t,” manager Dave Martinez said. “But the bullpen held their own today.”

The star of the game was Juan Soto who stole a base and was 3-for-3 in the game and he was intentionally walked. According to the Washington Nationals, Juan Soto is the youngest player to be intentionally walked since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989. Soto also had the defensive play of the game as he hustled to a gapper line drive and backhanded the baseball and set-up to throw out a runner at home on a relay throw to Trea Turner who then darted a strike to the plate and Pedro Severino applied the tag.

“Got us through five innings,” manager Dave Martinez said about Hellickson. “Our bullpen was rested. Hellickson kept us in the game.”

Starter Jeremy Hellickson lasted 5 innings and gave up just 2-runs in the game and was relieved by Justin Miller for the 6th inning in an inning by inning succession of scoreless innings by the Nationals bullpen. Sammy Solis pitched the 7th inning and it was Brandon Kintzler who had to face Schoop, Adam Jones and Manny Machado to start the 8th inning and Kintzler put up a zero against Baltimore’s best. Sean Doolittle earned his 12th save and it had some drama with a HBP and an infield single with one out, but then Doo struck out the next two batters to end the game.

Irony is such a funny part of this game and so is poetic justice for Jeremy Hellickson who was traded by the Phillies to the Orioles last year days before the July 31 trade deadline. He pitched to a 6.97 ERA for the O’s last year and a 7.30 ERA in 5 starts at Camden Yards and endured boos often by the home crowd — and on this day with the large showing by Nats fans he was greeted by cheers at the end of the 5th inning as he exited the game with a 3-to-2 scoring advantage.

“There’s not too many parks that are worse to pitch in than this one,” Hellickson said. “I thought I got away from it.”

In this game, it was a game of “firsts” for rookie phenom Juan Soto. It was his first 3-hit game, first stolen base, first intentional walk, and first outfield assist. He helped his team move into a temporary tie for first place also.

“What’s surprising me most is you look at him, and he doesn’t act like a 19-year-old,” Dave Martinez said. “He does things really, really well. Today, he stole third base. And we asked him: ‘What made you go?’ And he said: ‘I was sitting there and I was timing him, timing him, timing him, and he did the same thing over and over again. And I said, ‘OK, I can do this.’ And he ran. What 19-year-old you know does that? Applies it and goes with it?”


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