WASHINGTON -- The follow-up performance to the biggest comeback victory in Nationals history? A walk-off, pinch-hit home run from Mark Reynolds in the ninth inning Friday night to catapult Washington to a 3-2 victory over the Marlins and start the celebration at Nationals Park.
"I know Davey put me in for one reason," Reynolds said.
Indeed, with a taxed bullpen that could not withstand many extra innings, Nationals manager Dave Martinez called upon Reynolds in the ninth inning, hoping he could win the game with one swing. Reynolds got ahead in the count against Miami right-hander Kyle Barraclough and launched a 3-1 fastball over the plate into the stands in left field for his second career walk-off home run.
It gave Washington its 13th consecutive victory against Miami, the longest winning streak in team history over a single opponent. And it marked the second win in a row for the Nationals, the first time they have won back-to-back games since June 5-6 against the Rays. Winning back-to-back games is an accomplishment in itself for the Nats, but perhaps the way they have won these two games could be even more important going forward.
"Oh yeah, it matters," Reynolds said. "It's fun to have pressure situations and at-bats that matter. So I think it's -- I don't want to say it's a turning point of the season, but hopefully it instills some confidence in here. That it gets us back to who we know we are."
If the Nationals are going to pull off this turnaround, the starting pitching needs to get back to being a strength. After having one of the best units in the National League through the first two months, the Nats' rotation has been one of the worst over the past month. That's why manager Dave Martinez emphasized prior to the game the importance of getting left-hander Giovany Gonzalez back on track.
"We try to encourage him, 'Hey, you're doing good, get that little man out of your head,'" Martinez said before the game.
Gonzalez danced his way out of trouble through five innings. He gave up eight hits and walked four but allowed just two runs -- thanks to inducing three double-play grounders.
But a high pitch count prevented Gonzalez from pitching deeper into the game, which left the Nationals' relievers to pick up the slack. And once again they answered, with four consecutive scoreless innings, keeping the game tied and setting the stage for Reynolds' heroics.
"We are all human here," Nationals right fielder Adam Eaton said. "When you come into the next day, you got a little more to you, you got a little happier approach to life. Having a walk-off win, everyone is in a little better mood coming to the ballpark the next day and has a little more giddy up. I think you saw that today. Hopefully these two in a row will propel us into the third game and win the series tomorrow and continue on. Hopefully that spirit lives on for another day."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Nationals let a prime scoring opportunity slip away in the eighth inning when they loaded the bases with nobody out against Drew Steckenrider. But they were unable to push across a run as Steckenrider got a pair of shallow flyouts and a popup to end the inning and keep the game tied.
HE SAID IT
"That was a big pick-me-up. Can't say enough about Mark. He's that guy. At that moment, we needed one swing, just like that." Martinez, on Reynolds' home run
"Absolutely. I feel like the team seems more inspired. And that's the way it feels in the dugout. And hopefully from here on, things are going to change." Wilmer Difo, through an interpreter, on the mood change the past two days
Max Scherzer has been stung by a lack of run support, dropping four consecutive decisions while the team has scored seven runs over his past five starts. But he has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of those outings, and he will aim to continue that dominance against the Marlins and left-hander Wei-Yin Chen on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. ET in Game 3 of this four-game set at Nationals Park.