Nationals Edge Diamondbacks in Walk-off Thriller

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Nationals 1, Diamondbacks 0

Kyle Schwarber hit a tape-measure home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the Washington Nationals a 1-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday night.

It came on a night where both starting pitchers deserved to win. Nationals starter Max Scherzer and Diamondbacks starter Taylor Widener each were terrific. Scherzer pitched seven innings, allowing two hits while walking two and striking out 10. Widener scattered four hits across six innings while also walking two.

The Nationals only had three runners in scoring position all night, while the Diamondbacks only had one. In the second inning, the Nationals had their first. Back-to-back one-out singles by the red-hot Josh Harrison and by Starlin Castro put runners on first and second for former Diamondbacks catcher Alex Avila, playing his former team for the first time. He flied to center for the second out, sending it deep enough for Harrison to advance to third. Center fielder Victor Robles could not capitalize, smashing a rocket on one hop to third. Escobar handled it and fired to first in time to end the inning.

Widener escaped another jam in the third after Trea Turner drew a one-out walk. Turner stole second and advanced to third on a grounder to first. Josh Bell could not drive him in, grounding to second instead for the third out.

Scherzer had the Diamondbacks tied up in knots. After Kole Calhoun hit a one-out single in the top of the first, no Diamondback reached base again until catcher Carson Kelly and shortstop Josh Rojas drew back-to-back walks in the fifth. Only two other Diamondbacks reached base after those walks — Tim Locastro, who singled in the sixth, and Nick Ahmed, who hit a pinch-single in the top of the ninth off reliever Brad Hand.

Walking It Off

Kevin Ginkel and Alex Young pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth, respectively, for the Diamondbacks. Young retook the hill in the ninth to face Bell — forcing the switch-hitter to hit right-handed — and Schwarber, a lefty. Taylor Clarke was locked and loaded to face the right-handed-hitting Harrison, due up after Schwarber.

Clarke never left the pen.

After Bell fanned, Schwarber sent a hanging 2-1 sinker into orbit. This gave the Nationals a walk-off victory over a team that had nothing to be ashamed of.

“A good hitter took advantage of a little bit of a mistake and ended up hitting a home run for the game-winner,” manager Torey Lovullo said after the game. “As frustrating as it is, I was proud of the way our guys fought.” He continued, “We’ve got to go out and execute a really good game plan tomorrow. We can’t do a darn thing about what just happened — we have to learn from it and move on.”

Postgame Reflections

Lovullo said that Widener was “never out of counts.” He explained, “(Widener) was driving pitches. It was mostly his fastball and his command.” Lovullo also said that Widener had a “really comfortable night with Carson (Kelly). They mixed and matched pitches well and followed a good game plan.”

Widener agreed with Lovullo’s assessment. “Carson called a great game. There were multiple times (where) my mind was dead set on a pitch and was going to shake until I got it. Then Carson would put it down. Being a pitcher, that’s the greatest feeling ever, when you and your catcher are on the same page like we were tonight. Every time I was thinking something, he was one step ahead of me. It made it very comforting today.”

Looking Ahead

The 10 strikeouts gave Scherzer 2,808 strikeouts for his career, passing the great Cy Young for 22nd on the career leaderboard. He now trails Hall of Famer Mike Mussina, ranked 21st, by five and Mickey Lolich, ranked 20th, by 24.

Hand (1-0) earned the win in relief, while Young (0-3) took the loss. The Diamondbacks (5-9) and Nationals (3-7) play again Saturday morning at 10:05 Arizona Time, with Luke Weaver (1-0, 2.13 ERA) facing Erick Fedde (0-1, 8.53 ERA).

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Players/managers mentioned:
Kyle Schwarber, Max Scherzer, Taylor Widener, Josh Harrison, Starlin Castro, Alex Avila, Victor Robles, Trea Turner, Josh Bell, Kole Calhoun, Carson Kelly, Josh Rojas, Tim Locastro, Nick Ahmed, Brad Hand, Kevin Ginkel, Alex Young, Taylor Clarke, Torey Lovullo, Cy Young, Mike Mussina, Mickey Lolich, Luke Weaver, Erick Fedde