The Washington Nationals’ surge started after they brought aboard Gerardo Parra, whose dugout dancing and “Baby Shark” walk-up music became the trademarks of the club’s turnaround.
So maybe it’s fitting the Nationals assured themselves of hosting the NL wild-card game by holding on to beat the already-eliminated Cleveland Indians 10-7 Saturday with the help of his grand slam in a nine-run second inning.
“You guys are feeling the good vibes in here,” Parra said. “It’s like a family.”
Nationals Park will be the site of a win-or-go-home game Tuesday night between Washington, which will send three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer to the mound, and either the St. Louis Cardinals or Milwaukee Brewers. One of those clubs will be the NL Central champion; the other will be the league’s second wild-card entry.
“That’s awesome. I don’t have to go home and pack,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “Nice to stay at home. The boys wanted to stay at home, so they came out and swung the bats.”
Asked before Saturday’s game about the importance of clinching home-field advantage, Scherzer said: “Would it be nice? Yes. But is it imperative? No. We’re ready to play anybody, anywhere.”
Sure looks that way at the moment. Washington extended its winning streak to seven games, the longest run this season for a team that was 19-31 before heading in the right direction.
“We’re hot at the right time,” said starter Patrick Corbin, who got hit around, giving up six runs on three homers in 4 1/3 innings.
The Indians hit four long balls in all, breaking their franchise record for a season with 222.
“I care more about finding a way to be one run better than the other team, whether it takes 10 singles or five homers,” manager Terry Francona said. “I don’t care. All I care about is us winning, and, however we get to that, I’ll take it.”
That didn’t happen enough in 2019 to extend the season, and Cleveland has lost four games in a row.
An 8-2 defeat at Washington on Friday eliminated the Indians from the playoff race after they won the previous three AL Central titles.
Playing in place of an ill Victor Robles, Parra drove in four runs Friday - with a homer, a double and a sacrifice fly - and continued his surge Saturday, going 2 for 2 in the second inning alone.
That included his second grand slam with Washington, which signed him in May to a deal worth the $555,000 minimum after the 32-year-old outfielder was designated for assignment by San Francisco.
“Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Yesterday was a big day,” Parra said, “but I think today is another big day.”
His most notable contributions to the Nationals would have to be the post-homer dance line anyone who goes deep has to participate in and his choice of a repetitive children’s song to precede his at-bats. Nationals fans have taken to vigorously clapping along whenever “Baby Shark” plays, and they certainly made themselves heard Saturday.
Was that the most vociferous he’s heard so far?
“It’s hard to say,” Parra answered, “because every at-bat, I hear more loud, loud, loud.”
Daniel Hudson (3-0), the fifth of six Washington pitchers, struck out two in a perfect eighth. Cleveland’s Adam Plutko (7-5) lasted 1 1/3 innings, his shortest start in the majors, and was charged with eight runs and seven hits. Parra’s slam came off reliever Hunter Wood.
Corbin drove in Washington’s first run with a bases-loaded single in the second, and Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon and Asdrúbal Cabrera also tacked on RBI hits as the Nationals built a 9-0 lead. Jordan Luplow homered twice for Cleveland, Franmil Reyes hit his 37th of the year, and Eric Haase hit the first of his career.
Indians: 3B José Ramírez (sore right hand) sat out a second game in a row and probably won’t play in the season finale Sunday, Francona said. Ramírez returned to the lineup this week, less than a month after having his broken right hand surgically repaired.
Nationals: On Robles, Martinez said: “We’ve got a lot of guys sick. He came in today not feeling good. If he feels better, I want him to get some at-bats” in the regular-season finale Sunday. … C Kurt Suzuki “feels absolutely normal,” Martinez said, after playing the full game Friday in his first start since Sept. 5. Suzuki missed time because of a bad right elbow.
Indians RHP Mike Clevinger (13-3, 2.39 ERA) can establish a career high for wins on Sunday. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last two starts. Washington will pitch RHP Joe Ross (3-4, 5.90).
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