Irvin dazzles, Nats rally in the 9th to secure series victory

Washington records its MLB-high 22nd comeback win of the season

June 23rd, 2024

DENVER -- For each strikeout tallied and inning he completed, the motivation for the Nationals' hitters and bullpen to come through for the right-hander grew. Irvin recorded a season-high-tying 10 strikeouts in six innings, but the offense didn’t have anything to show for it.

After being no-hit through 6 1/3 innings and held to two baserunners through eight frames, the Nationals fought back in the ninth to top the Rockies, 2-1, on Sunday at Coors Field. Washington staged its league-high 22nd comeback win of the season and its third (3-36) when trailing after the eighth inning.

The Nationals are a Major League-best 11-4 since June 7, including their first series win in Denver since April 24-27, 2017.

“They’re going out there trying to scratch and claw, but they don’t give up. They don’t give up ever,” manager Dave Martinez said. “...When you go out there and you play hard for the 27 outs, good things happen.”

Irvin (5-6, 3.13 ERA) reached double digits in strikeouts for the second time in less than a month. He kept the Nationals in the game by limiting the Rockies to one run off three hits and a walk across 98 pitches. Irvin’s only blemish in the box score was a solo homer to Michael Toglia in the second inning. He completed his 16th start by striking out seven of the final nine batters.

"He's had a really good mix,” said Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon. “He's got an elite fastball. He's got really good extension, so he's literally throwing the ball closer to you than most other pitchers. We had a hard time adjusting to it. The second, third time through, he did a really good job with his curveball after we tried to adjust, so sometimes you just tip your cap."

Irvin also struck out 10 batters on May 28 at Atlanta. He joins DJ Herz (13 strikeouts, June 15 vs. Miami) and MacKenzie Gore (three times, most recently June 14 vs. Miami) for the Nationals’ most double-digit strikeout performances by a starter since 2021.

“Getting ahead, working ahead and attacking with strengths,” Irvin said of trends between his outings. “Keeping those guys off balance has led to good things.”

Before debuting at Coors Field, Irvin sought advice from veteran Patrick Corbin. The southpaw gave Irvin insight from his 14 appearances in Denver. Irvin became the first Nationals pitcher -- and only 39th visiting pitcher -- to collect double-digit strikeouts at the ballpark.

“Obviously, the elements are a little different than any of the other parks that we play in,” said Irvin, who has a 1.50 ERA in his last four road starts. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Pat because coming in here ... he said you can’t be intimidated by the ballpark and the conditions, just pitch your game. And that advice really helped.”

Irvin’s objective was “giving [the Nationals] a chance to win,” he did that when he handed off a one-run game to the bullpen. As Robert Garcia and Dylan Floro pitched scoreless relief appearances, the Nationals’ bats still struggled to make noise.

But when Jacob Young led off the final inning with a single off left-hander Jalen Beeks, the offense delivered. CJ Abrams grounded into a forceout at second and advanced to second base on a wild pitch.

Lane Thomas drove in Abrams for the game-tying run with a double to deep right field. Thomas stole his 17th base of the season to put himself in position for Joey Meneses, who brought Thomas home with the go-ahead run on a line-drive single to center field.

“It’s important when our guys go deep into these games and give [closer Kyle Finnegan] a chance to go out there and get a win,” said Thomas. “I think that’s a huge part of this team is our starters have been pitching really well lately, so hopefully that keeps happening.”

Finnegan took the mound less than 24 hours after committing a pitch clock violation that walked in the winning run on Saturday night. After allowing back-to-back singles to open the inning, he iced his 22nd save of the season with a flyout and two strikeouts.

“Ten strikeouts here, that was as good as it gets,” Finnegan said of Irvin. “To protect the great game that he threw and come out of here with a win, we’re playing well and we’re in it -- and it’s nice to be in it.”