WASHINGTON -- The Nationals broke a tie with a three-run fifth inning and defeated the Indians, 7-4, at Nationals Park on Wednesday afternoon. The two clubs ended up splitting the two-game series.With right-hander Josh Tomlin on the mound for Cleveland, Daniel Murphy broke the 4-4 deadlock by hitting a double
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals broke a tie with a three-run fifth inning and defeated the Indians, 7-4, at Nationals Park on Wednesday afternoon. The two clubs ended up splitting the two-game series.
With right-hander Josh Tomlin on the mound for Cleveland, Daniel Murphy broke the 4-4 deadlock by hitting a double to left field, scoring Trea Turner. Two batters later, Anthony Rendon also doubled to right field, scoring Jayson Werth and Murphy to take a three-run lead. Tomlin has been shaky lately, allowing 14 runs on 17 hits in his past two starts (8 2/3 innings).
Murphy's double clanked off the glove of right fielder Abraham Almonte, who also misplayed a ball in right that helped the Nationals to a run in the first inning. Indians manager Terry Francona cited both plays when discussing Tomlin's four-inning outing.
"The way J.T. pitches, he's going to pitch to contact," Francona said. "The better [a] defensive team we are certainly helps him. And there's been a number of times where we haven't finished plays, or we haven't made plays, and that hasn't helped."
Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez picked up his eighth win of the season, but he wasn't at his best. He was given a 4-1 lead after two innings, but the Indians made a comeback in the fourth and tied the game. Francisco Lindor highlighted the scoring with a two-run homer. Mike Napoli scored the tying run on a double by Jose Ramirez.
By the end of the game, manager Dusty Baker ended up emptying the bullpen in order to get the last nine outs of the game. He used five relievers -- Matt Belisle, Blake Treinen, Oliver Pérez, Shawn Kelley and closer Mark Melancon -- in order to get the victory.
"It was even better that we scored some runs," Baker said. "Our offense came alive to put us in that position. We got some big hits."
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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The streak is alive: Werth extended his on-base streak to 40 games on Wednesday. It's the longest active streak in the Major Leagues this season. He went 2-for-3, knocked in three runs and hit his 15th home run of the season.
According to Werth, the streak is a product of his approach at the plate. To be successful, he decided to work deep in the count. Early in the season, Werth was too aggressive and was sometimes swinging at the first pitch. Now he is back to his old self and getting on base often.
"Just getting back to being myself," Werth said. "That's what it really comes down to. I feel like I've been a pretty good player over the course of my career. It was the product of having good at-bats." More >
Homer prone: Tomlin has always been susceptible to home runs, but the righty prides himself on limiting damage before any surrendered shots. In the second inning, some tough luck came into play. A bunt single by Danny Espinosa and a bloop hit from Ben Revere preceded Werth's three-run shot to left field. In his previous outing, Tomlin gave up a grand slam against the Yankees. On the year, the righty has given up a Major League-high 27 home runs.
"It's executing pitches when there's runners on base," Tomlin said. "I've been prone to the home run all year, but they've come usually when no one's on base, or limited traffic. Right now, it's just [that] there's traffic. It seems like every inning I'm having to work around guys, and when I make a mistake, I pay for it with a crooked number." More >
Bullpen comes through: The bullpen pitched four shutout innings and struck out three batters. Melancon notched his second save of the season as a National.
Of all the relievers, Belisle did the best job. He entered the game in the sixth inning with runners on first and second and nobody out. But Lonnie Chisenhall hit into a double play and Almonte grounded out to Turner at second base to end the threat.
"Belisle got out of the inning unscathed. The bullpen did an outstanding job," Baker said.
Answering back: Cleveland did what it could all evening to counter Washington's offensive punches. First, Almonte delivered an RBI double in the second to pull the game into a 1-1 tie. Then, the Tribe answered the Nationals' three-run second with a three-spot in the third. Lindor highlighted that outburst with a two-run homer to the bullpen beyond the left-field wall, giving the shortstop 14 homers on the season.
"I thought we did a really good job to get back into the game," Francona said. "[Gonzalez has] plenty of velocity, and he's got a big breaking ball. We made him work. … You get an opportunity or two, you've got to do something with it, because you're not going to get them every inning."
"You're always trying to do your best to help the team to win. That's our main goal. Some days, you don't receive what you're looking for. Today was one of those days." -- Almonte
"My job's not to go up there and hit, but obviously you try to take it as serious as you can and try to contribute as much as you can. But, I didn't do my job on the mound. That's the reason we lost the game." -- Tomlin, who had a 12-pitch at-bat against Gonzalez in the fourth inning
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his RBI double in the third inning, Jose Ramirez increased his season average with runners in scoring position to .391 (34-for-87). That ranks as the fifth-highest average with RISP in a season by an Indians hitter (min. 80 at-bats). Ramirez is also batting .409 (18-for-44) with RISP and two out -- the fourth-highest single-season mark with RISP and two outs in Indians history.
Perez left the game in the seventh inning because of back spasms. He only faced Jason Kipnis, who collected an infield single. Baker went to the mound and decided to take Perez out of the game. He is listed as day to day.
Perez felt the pain as he was winding up. "I never had that issue before. That's why I stopped throwing. I tried to walk it off and see how I felt and got back on the mound," Perez said.
Indians: The Tribe will return to Cleveland for an 11-game homestand, beginning with a 7:10 p.m. ET clash with the Angels on Thursday at Progressive Field. In the opener of the four-game set with the Halos, the Indians will hand the ball to ace Corey Kluber (11-8, 3.22 ERA), who has gone 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA in his past five starts.
Nationals: The Nationals have a day off on Thursday and then return to Nationals Park on Friday to play a three-game series against the Braves. Game time on Friday is 7:05 p.m. ET. Stephen Strasburg will pitch the first game of the series. Strasburg's last start was a rare blemish on his Cy Young-caliber season. He got hit hard in 4 2/3 frames vs. the Giants, giving up eight hits and four runs. Strasburg has a 1.98 ERA (three runs in 13 2/3 innings) in two starts vs. Atlanta in '16.
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Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.