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Rookie drives long way, helps Nats rally for win

Stevenson ties game with 1st MLB HR, goes back-to-back with Difo against Phillies
August 21, 2018

WASHINGTON -- At around 2:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Triple-A Syracuse manager Randy Knorr told Andrew Stevenson the Nationals were recalling him. Stevenson expected Knorr to tell him when his flight was, but Knorr informed Stevenson he couldn't find a flight. So Stevenson had to make the six-hour drive from

WASHINGTON -- At around 2:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Triple-A Syracuse manager Randy Knorr told Andrew Stevenson the Nationals were recalling him. Stevenson expected Knorr to tell him when his flight was, but Knorr informed Stevenson he couldn't find a flight. So Stevenson had to make the six-hour drive from upstate New York to Nationals Park in the rain.
Stevenson arrived during the one-hour, 42-minute rain delay in the middle of the third inning.
"I told him, 'Congratulations. Happy to have you. Get your uniform on and get loose. You might be in this ballgame,'" Nationals manager Dave Martinez said.

Stevenson pinch-hit for Jimmy Cordero in the sixth inning and hit his first career homer -- a game-tying two-run shot -- which Wilmer Difo followed with his own home run to give the Nationals a lead in their eventual 10-4 win over the Phillies.
Even after trading two of his best offensive players Tuesday afternoon, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo stayed optimistic about his team's future because of the array of young talented players in the organization eager for opportunities.
Stevenson and Difo, both of whom probably wouldn't have played if the Nationals didn't trade Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams, swung the momentum Washington's way Tuesday night.

The Nationals remain confident they can compete in the National League East this season despite the trades. Washington is now 5 1/2 games back of the Phillies but still 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Braves.
"That shows the character of these guys," Martinez said. "I said it before -- these guys could've folded a long time ago, and they're not."
After Murphy and Adams cleared waivers, the Nationals traded Murphy to the Cubs and Adams to the Cardinals, a sign the club thinks a turnaround this season is unlikely. While players were quiet in the clubhouse pregame, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Martinez expressed how they believe there's still hope for this year and beyond. The Nationals have savvy young players and a group of seasoned veterans, they said.
Zimmerman, who's been a mainstay in the organization since it moved to Washington, provided the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the second inning by scoring on Tanner Roark's double. However, the rain delay ended Roark's outing after three innings.
The Phillies took the lead in the sixth inning against Matt Grace with Roman Quinn's first career homer and RBI singles from Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana.
Matt Wieters' single scored Juan Soto in the sixth, but the Nationals didn't break through until Stevenson's at-bat. Stevenson, who may have taken Adams' pinch-hit slot, belted Victor Arano's slider past the center-field wall. Difo, replacing Murphy at second base, then went deep to give the Nationals a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Stevenson kept his home run ball in a glass case at his locker, but because he's moving around so much, the 24-year-old said he'll probably just give the ball to his parents.
"Whether it's coming off the bench or being a glove out there," Stevenson said, "any way I can help, it's just great to get the opportunity."
The Nationals' mix of youth and experience came together when Zimmerman hit a solo homer in the seventh before Anthony Rendon and Wieters added run-scoring hits in the eighth.

Washington's bullpen, which has been one of the main factors in the Nationals falling behind in the postseason chase, closed the victory with four scoreless innings, including Kelvin Herrera's first appearance since Aug. 7.
"Definitely at times it feels like you get down on yourself a little bit, with the situation that's going on with the trades made," Difo said through a translator. "But I think the team's done a great job of keeping it upbeat, the morale high and staying positive."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Phillies loaded the bases in the eighth inning against Koda Glover. With two outs, the Nationals replaced Glover with Wander Suero. The right-hander struck out Quinn to end the threat as he pumped his fist.
Suero has allowed one of 19 inherited runners to score this season.
"I spoke to all these guys, and I told them, 'You're going to pitch in big moments now. You've got to be prepared. You've got to be ready,'" Martinez said. "Suero comes in with the bases loaded and pumps strikes. He's done well all year up here."

SOUND SMART
Roark leads MLB pitchers with eight RBIs.

HE SAID IT
"I would say that the Nationals have been a dangerous team since Opening Day and they will be a dangerous team until the last game of the season. That lineup is really good from top to bottom and they demonstrated that tonight. But we never would take them lightly, whether they have Matt Adams and Daniel Murphy on the bench or they're rolling out the lineup that they had tonight" -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler
UP NEXT
Stephen Strasburg will be activated from the disabled list to start Wednesday against the Phillies. Injuries have limited him to just 14 starts this year, and he has posted a 3.90 ERA around two stints on the DL. This will be the right-hander's first start since July 20 after missing a little more than a month with a pinched nerve in his neck. Zach Eflin will be on the mound for the Phillies at Nationals Park, with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. ET.

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.