2 home runs from J-Up lead Padres past Nats
WASHINGTON -- The Padres watched a late lead dwindle on Wednesday night as the Nationals scored one run in the sixth and three more in the seventh. The Padres never lost the lead, though, and evened the series with a 6-5 win at Nationals Park.
Justin Upton paced the Padres' offensive effort with a pair of home runs, including a solo shot in the seventh off right-handed reliever Doug Fister that served as the game's winning run. Wednesday marked the third time this season -- and second time against the Nationals -- that Upton has hit two home runs in a game. He leads the team with 22 home runs.
"I know he didn't think [the first one] got out. The second one was huge, also," said Padres interim manager Pat Murphy. "He's approaching his numbers, what he usually puts up."
Joaquin Benoit tossed a scoreless eighth inning and Craig Kimbrel earned his 36th save, shutting down Danny Espinosa, Denard Span and Jayson Werth in order during the ninth. The Nationals fell to 6 1/2 games back of the Mets in the National League East as New York topped the Phillies on Wednesday night.
"Just got to keep battling. Keep trying to win ballgames, keep having good at-bats and just trying to do what we can," Nationals slugger Bryce Harper said. "Personally, I'm trying to come in here and play as hard as I can no matter what. These fans expect that. This city expects that, and that's what I'm going to do. Just trying to come in here, try to be happy, try to smile and laugh and do what we can. Hopefully, we can make up some games and then play the Mets and see what we can do."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Starting anew: A day after his 15-game hitting streak ended, Matt Kemp started a new one in fine fashion -- with a two-run double as part of a four-run third inning, when he drove a ball into the gap in right-center field off Nats starter Gio Gonzalez. He would later score on Upton's home run. Kemp has reached base in each of his last 17 games, and he has 31 RBIs since the All-Star break. More >
"I love the way he plays," Murphy said of Kemp.
Green light? After Anthony Rendon walked with the bases loaded and Harper singled in two runs, the Nationals cut a four-run deficit to one and were still threatening in the bottom of the seventh. Batting with runners on the corners, Yunel Escobar chopped a 3-0 sinker into the ground for an inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play. More >
"It's not that I prefer or not prefer [swinging 3-0]," Escobar said through a translator. "I just thought it was the right situation. I felt I got a good pitch and was unable to do what I was trying to do."
Doing it with the bat, too: Padres pitcher Tyson Ross' calling card is his right arm, and it was plenty good at times Wednesday, as he struck out nine in 6 1/3 innings. But let's not dismiss his offensive merits. His third-inning single got the four-run inning started. His sacrifice bunt in the fourth inning set up another run when Yangervis Solarte later made it 5-0 with a sacrifice fly. Finally, he had a single in the sixth, giving him his first career multi-hit game.
"There were a couple of hard-hit balls. He's hitting higher than a couple of guys on the team. He was sensational tonight," Murphy said.
Playing from behind: Gonzalez allowed the first batter he faced in each of the first four innings to reach base. The Padres didn't score until the third, but by then Gonzalez's pitch count was already elevated. Ross and Austin Hedges started the third and fourth innings, respectively, with a hit, and they both came around to score. Gonzalez only lasted 4 2/3 innings. In his last three starts, Gonzalez has combined to throw just 12 1/3 innings while allowing 20 hits and 14 earned runs.
"Nothing," Gonzalez said, when asked about what was troubling him. "Not really anything. I was pounding the strike zone. I was getting ahead of the hitters. Maybe walked two guys. Other than that, typical start."
"Yeah. He also hits fifth in our lineup and is hitting .308. And he's a good RBI guy. We do it all the time. We do it with Jayson. We do the same with Bryce. We do it with just about everybody in our lineup. Pick a pitch and get one to hit." -- Nats manager Matt Williams, when told Escobar entered the game with the third-most double plays in the NL
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Upton's two home runs gave him 22 on the season but were just his sixth and seventh of the year on the road, which might rate unusual since he plays his home games in pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Before his big night Wednesday, Upton's last road home run came on July 30 against the Mets, a three-run shot in the ninth inning of an 8-7 victory.
"It feels good. That helps out. I'm not trying to not play well on the road. It just hasn't been in the cards for me," Upton said.
Padres: Andrew Cashner (5-12, 4.03 ERA) gets the start in the series finale on Thursday at 4:05 p.m. PT. Cashner had a lot of success his last time out against the Cardinals with a new grip on his slider, which helped him limit the St. Louis hitters to one unearned run on four hits over six innings.
Nationals: After his brother, Tyson, started Wednesday night for the Padres, Joe Ross (4-5, 3.56 ERA) will pitch the series finale for the Nationals on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET. The rookie -- who was selected by San Diego in the first round of the 2011 Draft -- hasn't pitched against the Padres in his career.
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