PHILADELPHIA -- This Nationals' season has been at times mind-boggling and frustrating for a team that began the year with such high aspirations. Their bullpen has struggled all year, their lineup has been depleted by injuries and their resolve has been tested through the first 32 games of this 2019 season. Yet these Nationals have shown that they will seldom go down quietly without a fight.
The win comes after the Nationals lost two position players due to injury in the early part of Saturday’s game, gave up five runs in the seventh inning to blow a 5-3 lead and responded with a four-run rally in the top of the eighth inning that emptied their bench, leading to infielder Adrian Sanchez playing left field for two innings and Max Scherzer pinch-hitting with the bases loaded in the ninth inning -- and offering to play right field if anyone else got injured.
“I’m still trying to catch my breath from that game,” reliever Kyle Barraclough said.
Judging by the elated yelling inside the clubhouse and the remnants of cabbage on the floor after the game -- in what has become the postgame celebration reserved for big wins -- winning a game like this is part cathartic.
“They never quit,” Nats manager Dave Martinez said. “They really feel like they’re in every game. And you can see their attitude. Tremendous game today. They fought today and were able to pull it out.”
It’s only Washington’s fifth win in the past 15 games, but it comes after both Michael A. Taylor (wrist) and Matt Adams (shoulder) left the game early with an injury. That left the Nationals with just two bench players remaining in the fourth inning, and forced Martinez to manage the game differently going forward.
So he allowed left-hander Patrick Corbin to throw 118 pitches to complete six innings, which included some lobbying from Corbin to remain in the game after a mound visit with one out and two runners on in the sixth. Corbin responded by striking out the next two batters, pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez and Andrew McCutchen.
“I didn’t want to come out,” Corbin said. “With those two guys on, I was -- I got this. I knew I had some left in the tank there and I felt strong."
Corbin got out of the jam and, after the Nats took the lead in the seventh, Martinez allowed Corbin to hit for himself rather than use a pinch-hitter, so that he could save one more bat for later in the game.
That situation arose in the eighth inning when the Phillies brought in left-hander Adam Morgan, who had not allowed a run in 16 games this season, to face light-hitting Andrew Stevenson. Martinez countered with Suzuki, even though the Nats had no true outfielders remaining on the bench, and the catcher responded by swatting a pinch-hit homer into the left-field seats. One batter later, Morgan was tagged for another run, as Robles crushed an opposite-field solo homer to right field to put the Nationals in front.
“I got very excited, [and] emotional as I was running,” Robles said through team interpreter Octavio Martinez. “I didn’t see the team, but I could feel their emotion. And I knew they had my back. It was a great feeling as I was running around the bases, to feel my team excited.”
With so many key players sidelined, especially in their lineup, the Nationals are going to need other key players to step up and pick up the slack if they are going to hang onto their lofty postseason goals.
But despite all the early-season obstacles, and no matter how long their injured list grows, the Nats showed Saturday night that they are not going to let this season slip away easily.
“They’ve been positive. They’ve played with a lot of energy,” Martinez said. “Not one guy in there has been down. Not one guy has said, ‘Woe is us’. They’re fighting and you saw that tonight.”