With the Nationals trailing by 2-runs in the 9th inning, Bryce Harper crushed a 3-1 meatball from the Cardinals’ closer, Bud Norris, to deep centerfield onto the grassy knoll which was measured at 451 feet. That bomb tied the game up, and at the very least, took a looming “L” off of starting pitcher Max Scherzer. In the 10th inning, Harper stepped up to the plate again — this time with a chance to win it via a hit or a productive out with the pinch-runner Michael Taylor on 3rd base and one out. Harper hit a deep flyball in a 2-2 count to leftfield for the walk-off sacrifice fly. Nats win 4-3.
“Those RBIs [Harper] picked up for us were awesome,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We are into it up to the last out.”
With some poetic irony for Greg Holland, he pitched 2 scoreless innings and got the win against the team that just DFA’d him. It was not the finest job of managing the Cardinals by Mike Shildt who sent out the struggling Bud Norris for the 9th and stuck with him too long to turn over the Nats line-up.
“Leaving [fifteen] runners on base was not good, it wasn’t,” Martinez said. “We’ve got to start driving in runs when we can and seize the moment, really. We’ve got to seize the moment when it becomes available.”
The Nationals were a horrific 1-for-10 in RISP spots with some poor execution as the team had numerous chances to score more runs earlier. This game could have been another where we lamented a loss in which the Nationals blew some golden opportunities early, and only had Trea Turner‘s home run on the board as the lone run until Harper’s home run in the 9th inning. With Mark Reynolds (another former Cardinal) pinch-hitting to start the 10th inning, he crushed a ball to the wall that went in and out of their rightfielder’s glove for a long double. The Nationals next batter, Adam Eaton, laid down a respectable sacrifice bunt turned into a single when the Cardinals 3rd baseman, Patrick Wisdom, was in no rush to throw the ball to 1st base allowing the hustling Eaton to beat it out for a single. That set-up Harper with one-out to hit it deep for the game winning walk-off sacrifice fly. Harper has been playing with a nagging cough for about two weeks. In fact, Harper’s last home run was on August 14th against these Cardinals in St. Louis.
“My body doesn’t feel very good,” Harper said. “…Coughing, yakking, all that good stuff. Just trying to not worry about it.”
Harper wasn’t into his normal hugging after a big win as he feels toxic. Some of his teammates had caught his cough like Trea Turner. While the energy level has seemed down at times the last two weeks, those toxic germs could be part of the cause. Harper said he will keep grinding, and he really needs to keep bolstering his stats as he inches closer to free agency.
The Nationals bullpen threw a shutout in the end-results but the path was bumpy while they were very fortunate as Justin Miller came in with no outs and bases loaded in the 8th inning after Jimmy Cordero could not retire a batter, and Miller induced a 4-2-3 doubleplay grounder and then struck out Marcel Ozuna for the final out of the inning. Holland was also lucky in his second inning of work as he walked the lead-off man who was replaced by a speedy pinch-runner who was put in motion on a hit and run and the grounder went right to the second base bag as Wilmer Difo broke to the base and had an easy 4-3 doubleplay to get Holland out of trouble. Scherzer wasn’t as lucky as the other Nats pitchers as he pitched better than his 3 earned runs would indicate because a balk sent two runners into scoring position and a single scored both.
“He’s really good,” Martinez said about Scherzer’s effort. “He’s the best.”
In this game, Scherzer eclipsed his 250th strikeout of the season, but gave up 3-runs and could not get the run support once again putting his chances at winning 20-games in jeopardy. With Scherzer’s strikeout of Matt Carpenter in the first inning for his 250th strikeout of the season, he extended his streak to 5 straight 250+ strikeout seasons which is the second-longest streak in MLB history behind only Randy Johnson (6, 1997-2002).
In other accomplishments, with Turner’s 17th home run he edges closer to the 20 home run club which could put him among some rare company in the power and speed club. For Bryce Harper, he is now at 87 RBIs and just needs 13 more to reach the elusive 100 mark in his career. The teenager, Juan Soto, walked 3-times in the game raising his .416 (OBP) on-base percentage to .419 in his quest for the Rookie of the Year award in the NL.