Wow, what a ballgame Saturday night. Really, there were about 17 different storylines to this one by the time it ended, with the Nats somehow pulling off a 2-1 win over the Diamondbacks thanks to some stellar defense and relief pitching.
Let’s recap all the key points…
— Ryan Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 27 games, and did so in dramatic fashion. Hitless in his first three at-bats — all flyouts to right field — he crushed a 422-foot homer to center field in the eighth inning off reliever Juan Gutierrez. That blast not only extended the streak, but it also proved to be the game-winner for the Nats. “Zimmie comes up and hits the homer, and of course everyone’s thinking about the hitting streak,” Austin Kearns said. “Well, that run was huge.”
— Kearns teamed up with Jesus Flores to make the play of the night, maybe the play of the year. With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh and the score still 1-0, Josh Whitesell hit a sinking liner to right. Kearns came charging in and fielded the ball on a short-hop, then fired a one-bounce strike to the plate to nail Felipe Lopez. The out-of-this-world 9-2 forceout had everyone buzzing afterward, and not only for Kearns’ effort. Flores had to make a great stretch to his right to catch the ball while keeping his tiptoe on the plate. “Unbelievable,” John Lannan said. “I’ve never seen that happen before. It was a great play. Kearnsie just stuck with it and made a great throw. And Flo had the knowledge to know he had to stay on that base. He became a first baseman and made a great play. Unbelievable play.”
— Flores made that stretch and catch just moments after taking a foul ball off his right shoulder. He wound up departing during the bottom of the ninth because he simply couldn’t throw the ball anymore. X-rays came back negative and Flores was diagnosed with a shoulder contusion, but he’ll get tomorrow off for sure.
— After all that, Manny Acta needed SIX relievers to record the final nine outs. And the sixth guy was none other than Joel Hanrahan. Yes, the recently demoted closer got the save after Kip Wells allowed three of five batters faced to reach base. Hanrahan came in with runners on first and third and two outs and proceeded to strike out Chad Tracy on a low slider. “I don’t know if that was a confidence-booster, but it felt good,” the right-hander said. “To come in there in a tight situation like that and be able to get that strikeout … it’s good to get the victory for us.” Is Hanrahan the closer again? I don’t think so, at least not yet. But Acta did say this should make Joel feel better about himself. “We went to him in a key situation … and he came up big,” Acta said.