So much Nats action that 9 innings weren't enough

Ruiz homer, Weems' first win and a kerfuffle highlight 11-inning win

June 28th, 2023

SEATTLE – The Nationals had played extra innings only once this season, and they took a roller-coaster route Tuesday night to their second round of bonus baseball.

The Nats’ 7-4, 11-inning victory over the Mariners at T-Mobile Park featured 12 pitchers, four pitch timer violations, two home runs, one heated argument between players, one hit batter and one ejection.

“They fought,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “This team is relentless. They don’t give up, they stay focused, they stay in the game. We came out victorious at the end, which was awesome.” 

It was an equation for Washington’s second extra-innings win of the season and a chance to take the series on Wednesday.

Here are three things that stood out in the Nats’ wild win.

Ruiz evens the score
With the Nationals trailing 4-3 and down to their final five outs, changed the course of the game. The catcher went yard against reliever Paul Sewald to even the score with a 352-foot solo homer to right field.

“He really has been hitting the ball hard,” Martinez said. “At least twice a game, he’s squaring balls up and really doesn’t get anything for it. Tonight was beautiful. … That was a huge home run. That uplifted us right there to get to the next inning. The rest of the boys just stepped up.”

After Ruiz tied it up, the Nationals kept the score even until the 11th, when Lane Thomas connected on a go-ahead, two-run double. Ruiz had a standout evening: 2-for-5, a walk and two RBIs.

Weems’ shutdown performance
How does a player top his Major League debut? Pitch the 10th and 11th innings, escape a major jam and deliver a clutch performance in front of the opposing crowd. Four seasons into his MLB career, earned his first win.

“Making my debut during COVID and stuff, it’s all awesome to do all that,” Weems said. “But that was the most exciting thing I’ve done so far, for sure.”

Weems entered the game in the 10th frame with an automatic runner on second base. He quickly found himself in a no-outs, bases-loaded crunch after he intentionally walked J.P. Crawford and issued a free base to Julio Rodríguez on a pitch timer violation.

“I just kept taking deep breaths and stepping off and kept telling myself, ‘Trust your stuff. Trust your stuff. It doesn’t have to be wipeout stuff. Just get ahead and throw strikes,’” Weems said. “Even though I struggled with that a little bit because there’s a lot of adrenaline running out there, I just did a good job of just keep pounding the zone even if I was behind.”

Weems, who was called up from Triple-A on June 6, locked in to retire the next three batters on a popup, strikeout and soft grounder. He was efficient enough to return for the 11th inning and complete his two frames on 34 pitches, including a pair of strikeouts to ice the win.

“To me, that was all heart what he did,” Martinez said.

Early tensions
Before the late-game intensity, there was a heated moment in the fifth inning. was on second base after a two-out RBI double off starter Bryan Woo. With Joey Meneses at the plate, Candelario extended his left arm. 

When Candelario rounded third base after Meneses hit a fly ball to left, catcher Cal Raleigh began speaking to him. Candelario walked over so he could hear Raleigh. As the conversation continued, first base coach Eric Young Jr. stood in front of Candelario while players and coaches from both benches began to come onto the field.

"They thought we were stealing signs from second base. It’s kind of foolish -- a lot of times, we don’t even get our own signs,” Martinez said with a laugh. “But that’s part of it. I don’t know why they thought that. Really, I really don’t."

Candelario said his arm was outstretched as part of a motion to lean back to prevent getting picked off and then leaning back toward third to get a jump. 

"No, no shot,” he said of signaling to Meneses. “It’s too obvious. It’s too obvious, me doing that. How am I going to do the signs like that? I’m not that guy.”