WASHINGTON -- Matt Adams had not even realized the ball went into the third deck. The wind had picked up by the 11th inning Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park, so he was only watching to make sure the ball stayed fair as he began his home run trot and his teammates began spilling out of the dugout in celebration.
The ball hooked just inside the right-field foul pole, bouncing off the third deck in section 234 and catapulting the Nationals to a much-needed 7-6 victory against the Padres, avoiding a sweep and snapping a three-game losing streak.
“It feels pretty good to hit one up there,” Adams said. “I didn’t know if the wind was going to end up blowing it foul. It started out way fair and then got close at the end. It stayed fair, and it ended the day pretty good.”
Yes, the Nationals left the field feeling good Sunday on a day where they fell behind 6-0 in the third inning, which ended up knocking their starter Jeremy Hellickson out of the game, giving the Nats an uphill battle to even climb back into the game.
To complete the comeback, Washington required eight shutout innings from its bullpen, the same scuffling group of relievers that began the day with a 7.34 ERA, easily the highest in MLB. Sean Doolittle was also unavailable after pitching in back-to-back games. And the Nats won this game despite being short-handed on the bench, with just three available position players because Anthony Rendon was unavailable, as he's still battling a bruised left elbow.
“If you can talk about a team win,” right-hander Erick Fedde said. “This is probably as good as it can get.”
Fedde’s heroics were crucial to the Nationals' comeback. He was called up from Double-A Harrisburg for Sunday’s game to provide some length out of the bullpen in the event of a short start from Hellickson. Fedde woke up around 3:30 a.m. ET to take the first flight out of Hartford, Conn., and land in D.C. around 7 a.m.
“I got a nice little nap in before the game,” he said with a laugh. “So I can’t complain.”
Fedde tossed four shutout innings in relief, attacking Padres hitters with a steady diet of sinkers and sliders as he racked up three strikeouts and scattered two hits. That aggressiveness is something Fedde had been working on during his time in the Minors, and it carried over to his first big league appearance of the year.
“I felt like I was in a great place there,” Fedde said. “I was trying to keep it on a roll, and bringing it up here is pretty much the dream, so I’m happy with that.”
After Fedde, the Nationals' bullpen kept putting up zeros, a departure from their season-long struggles. Kyle Barraclough faced the heart of the Padres' order and struck out three. Joe Ross pitched in back-to-back games for the first time in his career and worked around a pair of hits in a scoreless inning. Tony Sipp and Justin Miller each tossed a scoreless inning in relief during extra innings.
Overall, the Nationals' bullpen combined for eight scoreless innings, yielding just five hits and three walks with 10 strikeouts. It kept the Nationals in the game, paving the way for home runs from the Nationals' trio of young position players to push the game into extras and Adams’ dinger to seal the win.
“I think today’s win will be good, turn us around as a team and get us going a little bit,” Ross said. “It’s a bullpen battle, and then Matty with the big home run there was huge. Hopefully that will get us sparked and get us going.”