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After rain, Nats pour on the runs
Question of the Day
By the time the rain started falling, prolonging what was already shaping up to a solid night for the Washington Nationals, there was no getting around the reality that a win over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night was going to be tedious.
It wasnt enough for the Nationals to score two runs in the bottom of the first, get their offense rolling against a hapless Padres staff and call it a quick night. No, they had to sit through the kind of PBS-telethon-length rain delay thats saddened so many nights on their schedule.
So after they returned from the rain, the Nationals decided to make it worth their wait.
A 13-1 win over the Padres, coming after a delay that stretched just over three hours, wound up being the teams most productive night of the season in front of a crowd of several hundred that stuck around to see it.
When the game resumed at 10:40 p.m., it was too late for the team to shoot off celebratory fireworks after home runs, so Nationals players rounded the bases without pyrotechnics, ceding to a neighborhood agreement.
But their production was no less staggering.
The 13 runs the Nationals scored were their most since coming to Washington in 2005. Eleven of those came after they were forced to sit and watch every other major-league game on the schedule for the night, except one, finish before theirs.
It was a good clean ballgame for us, interim manager Jim Riggleman said. Hopefully we can carry it over into tomorrow.
The 3:11 delay, which ran exactly a half-hour longer than the game and froze it in the top of the second after Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run homer to put the Nationals up 2-0 in the first, produced a game that turned into a conflagration of strange statistical lines when it resumed.
Fifteen of the Nationals first 21 outs were strikeouts. The Padres, coming out with the same cabin fever the Nationals had after the delay, struck out seven times against reliever Tyler Clippard alone during his four innings.
Padres reliever Luis Perdomo turned in one of the most colorful pitching lines likely to appear in a baseball box score this year: three innings pitched, four hits, five runs, three walks and seven strikeouts.
And despite all the overeager at-bats, the Nationals managed to score 10 runs by the seventh-inning stretch.
Hacking at a full palate of tempting pitches from San Diegos staff, the Nationals scored five runs in the second inning, all of them coming after Ronnie Belliard and Wil Nieves produced back-to-back strikeouts to start the inning.
The key at-bat in the whole rally, oddly enough, came from starter J.D. Martin, whose second big-league start had consisted of two innings, two and a half hours of staying loose and 45 minutes of stewing after he found out hed only be going back in the game to hit.
The Nationals didnt want to waste a bench player in the second inning, so they sent Martin out to take some pitches from Perdomo and try to run his pitch count up slightly.
Martin did more than that, fouling off five pitches in a 10-pitch battle with Perdomo and drawing a walk that kept the inning alive.
You certainly dont know youre going to turn an inning into five runs (after that), Riggleman said. It just goes to show you, you never know.
After Martins walk, Nyjer Morgan and Cristian Guzman singled, scoring Martin, and Zimmerman walked to load the bases for Dunn. The big slugger crushed the first pitch he saw from Perdomo over the center field wall for a grand slam that effectively put the game away for the Nationals, four hours and two innings after the first pitch.
The rest of it, from there, was a mere formality; player after player came up swinging freely, their better senses tossed out by the big lead and the long wait. But the Nationals, typically impotent with runners in scoring position, went 7-for-15 in those situations and their bullpen, forced to work for seven innings after the rain delay Martins night after two innings, did plenty to keep the lead comfortable.
While Clippard shut the Padres down, the Nationals added another three runs in the sixth, stringing together leadoff singles from Morgan and Guzman before Zimmerman doubled and Dunn drove Guzman in with a sacrifice fly.
One more surge in the eighth inning, again engineered by Zimmerman and Dunn, stretched the lead to 13-1, leaving only a rudimentary ninth-inning appearance for Mike MacDougal, who threw the hardest pitches in a game full of strikeouts but only got a popup, a groundout and a flyout to show for his high-90s heat.
But it was enough to close out the evening and send the Nationals bolting to their beds, having at least prepared for a brutal turnaround with a decisive win.
After going through a delay like that, its always better to come out and give yourself some breathing room right away, said Zimmerman, who drove in three runs. We did a good job today.
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