ATLANTA — The Nationals won their 18th game of the season Wednesday night. They needed 20 members of their 25-man roster to do it, it took them 11 innings, and it required a ninth-inning comeback. But when it was official, it sealed their second straight series victory over a divisional opponent and brought them back to .500 for the sixth time this season.
Until we’re able to look back, there’s no way to know which victories or losses mean more of the course of a season than others. But for the Nationals to be at .500, and particularly to have reached that mark again after a road trip that started out disastrously with a three game sweep by Philadelphia, is worth noting.
Here’s some reaction from the Nationals clubhouse on win No. 18:
On the total team effort: “Twenty guys got in and 20 guys delivered and that’s what we needed. We needed that total effort. Words can’t describe how much we needed that win right there. We go in tomorrow, we’ve already got the series… This was a big road trip for us. After we took care of san francisco we knew we had a big road trip coming and we could have easily folded. We could have thrown the cards in. We didn’t. We kept on battling and we knew how important this was. We have to show these guys that we can play with them and I think we did that tonight.
“After Philly, I think we all kind of looked in the mirror and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get it going,’ and we were able to do it, which is awesome.”
On his game-winning hit after striking out with two on and the game tied in the ninth: “Everyone was playing so hard and it was such a good game. Everyone’s heart was in it, I just wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass again. I just knew that I had to deliver and fortunately enough I was able to come through.”
On stealing third after his game-winning double: “That’s just pure adrenaline. That’s freaking awesome. That’s baseball. You always get another chance. 162 games, 600-something at-bats… There was too much positive in that game to let another opportunity pass.”
On the differences between this year’s team and last year’s: “Last year’s team is the past. We’re a new team this year. We’ve got way too much positive going right now to think about anything that happened last year or any time in the past. We turned the page on that a long time ago.”
On his start, where he went six innings and allowed just two earned runs (in the first inning) off five hits and three walks after a disastrous start last time out in Philadelphia: “I felt good. I ran into some trouble there in the first inning and coming off last week’s start, I knew I wanted to come out and put that in the past. Them getting the two early runs I just had to bear down and keep it there. More importantly it was a great win for the team. Those starts like last week are going to happen you have to move on and I’ve forgotten about it already. This game was awesome.”
On seeing fellow starter Jason Marquis not only get called on to pinch run in the ninth but also go first-to-third on Alex Cora’s game-tying double: “I just smiled. He’s a great athlete. I try to work on every aspect of the game and (Marquis and Livan Hernandez), they’re just so good at every part of the game. That he can go out there and go first-to-third on that ball is huge and it’s just something you watch and you try to (copy).”
On the significance of winning two series on the road trip: “It’s huge. We didn’t let (getting swept in Philadelphia) get us down. Every time we come out here and we face NL East, we’ve got to bear down. We’re just trying to end this long road trip on a good note.”
On the importance of the victory: “It was a good win. From where we started this road trip to where we are right now, with a chance to sweep these guys, is big for the team. It was a great win.”
On how much this win can carry over: “To be honest with you, we’ve got to turn the page. Tomorrow’s another chance to win a ballgame. This stays here tonight, we’ll come in ready for tomorrow and try to win the ballgame.”
On being able to come through as a bench player: “Today was big because of the situation but you try to stay level because, you know you’re going to fail. As a bench player, you don’t have tomorrow. If you’re 0-for-1 tonight you’re going to go 0-for-1 for five days so you just stay mentally sharp.”
On the win: “Not to be cliché but that was a total team victory. We just got contributions from everybody. Anybody who didn’t get a hit was doing something defensively or running the bases, we got great pitching, just really an outstanding win.”
On using 20 of his 25-man roster: “That’s just the nature of it. When you’re losing a ball game, to try to get back in you’ve got to use your roster up. If that game had gone to, the way it was operating, if it had gone to a thirteenth inning, we’d have not had anybody to hit, we’d have had a pitcher hitting, but we had to do that to get into the extra innings.”
On Jerry Hairston Jr. getting thrown out attempting to steal third base with two outs in the seventh: “Jerry thought he saw something there that he could get a break and that’s on me. If he had it to do over, he wouldn’t go and if I had it to do over, I would have anticipated that he might and put the hold on.
“You don’t have a crystal ball. You don’t know if we would have gotten a hit there to score the run. It was an aggressive mistake but Jerry’s a pro. He was the first one over there saying ‘Hey, Skip, I’m sorry about that, I screwed up,’ but I told him, ‘We both did. I should have thought that you might go and held you. It’s on both of us.’”
On the contributions from Alex Cora: “Alex has just been contributing one way or another from Day 1. Games that he’s involved in, games that he’s not involved in, stuff that comes out of his mouth, but when he’s played, he’s played outstanding… Alex has just been tremendous. With the closer there, he throws so hard that Alex is a veteran. He’s smart. He just didnt try to do to too much he just tried to make contact and it found a hole.