In the seventh inning of tonight’s game, the Nationals put runners on second and third with none out, didn’t put a ball in play for the rest of the inning and didn’t break a 1-1 tie with the Toronto Blue Jays. And manager Manny Acta figured that was it.
Opportunities don’t come around like that again, Acta figured, and after three batters struck out looking to end the inning, he assumed the Nationals had missed their chance to win.
“To have three guys strike out looking with the bases loaded, I’ve never seen that before,” Acta said. “I’m sure it’s happened in the game, but I’ve never seen it.”
Another opportunity did come around, though, in the 11th inning, thanks to a bullpen that escaped two jams before the Nats loaded the bases in the bottom of the 11th.
Adam Dunn punched an 0-2 pitch just inside the right-field line off Blue Jays closer Jason Frasor, scoring Cristian Guzman with the bases loaded, and the Nats had their first extra-inning win in nine tries this year.
Dunn had taken an intentional walk during the seventh-inning flop, and isn’t known for swinging at close pitches. But he hacked at Frasor’s first pitch with the bases loaded, shortened up his swing on 0-2 and pulled the pitch inside the line.
“I was trying to get something where I could hit it in the air. The first two pitches, he just blew it by me,” Dunn said. “I don’t really have a two-strike swing. I told myself to take a more level swing, just try to put the ball in play, use my blazing speed and beat it out.”
It was the third straight game where Dunn has had the game-winning RBI, following a first-inning single last night in New York and a homer the night before that.
As for the Nats, that’s now three wins in a row, matching their longest winning streak of the year. They made three errors tonight, but their bullpen pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings. Every member of the bullpen pitched, except Mike MacDougal, who had thrown the last three days and was unavailable, and the group allowed just four baserunners. That’s as reliable a stretch as the Nats’ relievers have compiled all season.
Back for more fun with this streaking team tomorrow night at 7:05. Talk to you tomorrow.