OK, this is starting to get kind of interesting. It’s not just that the Nationals are winning games for a change — six in a row with tonight’s 7-6 victory over the Diamondbacks. It’s that they’re doing it despite putting themselves into deep holes almost every night. Consider three of the last four games…
— Tuesday: They fall behind the Marlins 4-0, can’t do anything against right-hander Josh Johnson and look dead in the water through seven innings. Then they score six in the eighth to win.
— Thursday: Craig Stammen gives up six runs in the first two innings and gets knocked out, only to watch as his teammates storm back to again beat the Marlins, 12-8.
— Tonight: Collin Balester allows five runs in the second inning (serving up three homers) but he settles down, the Nats bullpen comes up big again and the lineup chips away at Arizona’s pitching staff to win 7-6.
Just like you drew it up, right Jim Riggleman?
“I can’t say I’m surprised,” said the interim manager, who is now 12-11 since taking over for Manny Acta during the All-Star break. “Because I know we have the offensive capabilities to do that. But I also know that’s not a good formula for winning. That’s not how you want to win ballgames. You want to be able to do that. So it’s nice that it happens now and then. But you’re never going to draw it up that way, that you’re going to get behind four or five runs and still win those ballgames. We’re tempting fate there.”
Tempting fate or not, these Nats suddenly believe they can win. They feel this way because they’re 1) playing solid defense, 2) getting timely hits and 3) getting some outstanding bullpen work.
The bullpen was especially impressive tonight after Balester got knocked around. Five guys combined to allow one run over 4 2/3 innings, with Mike MacDougal recording five outs en route to his 11th save in 12 chances.
Can they run the streak to seven? Well, they’re going to face a stiff challenge tomorrow night, with struggling Garrett Mock taking the mound against Cy Young Award contender Dan Haren. If the Nats can pull that one off, well, maybe there really is something special going on here.