Famous last words for $1,000 please. The quote above from an off-season question and answer session with invited Washington Nationals season ticket holders and Brad Hand. He broke his own golden rule when he walked the lead-off man in the 9th inning leading to his first blown save since August 21, 2019. From that point until today, Hand was a perfect 24-for-24. Some losses hurt worse than others, and this was one of them. Max Scherzer pitched a 7 1/3 inning gem with 14 strikeouts handing a 2-1 lead to the bullpen.
It all looked good when Daniel Hudson closed out the 8th inning to bridge the way for Hand in the 9th inning. But Hand struggled with his command to start his outing and walked the lead-off man and issued the dreaded LoW who represented the tying run. Of course, the run scored and the blown save was in the book.
“I just had a tough time commanding the fastball early,” Hand said. “Falling behind guys basically that whole inning before I started to feel a little bit better as that inning went on. Just mechanically I was little bit off right there and I had a tough time commanding my fastball.”
The Nats took the lead in the top of the 10th inning and Hand stayed in to face the lefty Mike Ford. It was a smart move by manager Dave Martinez that did not work out.
“He was going to face one hitter and get that lefty out,” Martinez explained for his decision to have Hand stay in to start the 10th inning. “That’s what we were hoping for. He had a lot of pitches, so we didn’t want him up there throwing 30, 35 pitches.”
The tying run scored on Hand’s record and he was pulled and replaced by Kyle Finnegan who did his job to keep the game tied for the 11th.
The Nats could not score in the top of the 11th inning as Josh Bell struck out with the ghost runner on second base to start the inning per the rules. In the 3-3 game, Tanner Rainey pitched the 9th and never retired a runner to give up the walkoff infield single.
For the Nats offense, they had eight hits to the Yankees six. They each had 4 walks. The team got their best game of the season from Victor Robles who was 3-4 with a stolen base and raised his batting average to .244.
Instead of celebrating Max Scherzer‘s gem and 178th career win, we had to endure the first 9th inning blown save of the Nats’ season. It happens. Score two runs, and you usually do not win games, but credit to Yankees starter Corey Kluber who was almost as good as Scherzer. There were a combined five Cy Young awards on that mound today with Scherzer’s three and Kluber’s two. It was a well played game by the Nats until the lead-off walk in the 9th.