WASHINGTON -- The wildest and wackiest game of the season for the Nationals ended with starting pitcher Joe Ross at the plate. He was pinch-hitting in the 14th inning, after Saturday night’s game between the Nationals and Brewers had continued into Sunday morning, after both teams had used up their bench players and emptied their bullpens. The rock band The Raconteurs began the game sitting in the stands, played at a nearby concert hall and made it back in time to see the conclusion of the game.
Before Ross struck out to end the longest game of the season for the Nationals, they rallied to overcome four deficits, nearly pulling off one of their most impressive wins of the season. But ultimately Washington fell short, falling, 15-14, in a 14-inning, 5-hour, 40-minute marathon.
“This team is incredibly competitive,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “I mean, they don’t quit.”
Washington did not quit despite falling behind 5-0 in the third inning after a clunker from starter Anibal Sanchez. Juan Soto hit a two-run homer later in the third, and Adam Eaton then hit a three-run homer down the left-field line in the fourth inning to tie the game. Matt Grace gave up three runs to spoil the first comeback and put the Nationals behind 8-5 in the sixth, before a run-scoring double from Victor Robles set the stage for Trea Turner’s go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth.
By the time Howie Kendrick added a two-run homer for insurance in the seventh, Washington’s celebratory dugout dancing line had become a frenzy.
Even though the normally reliable Sean Doolittle could not protect a three-run lead in the ninth inning, the Nationals still pushed the game into extra innings.
“It’s great. It’s like everybody feels comfortable at the plate,” Soto said. “Not just the middle of the lineup, it’s everybody. You can see it. The seven, eight hole hitters, they’ve been hitting amazing, and that helps the team to come back every time.”
Eventually, Javy Guerra was the last reliever remaining for Washington out of the bullpen, but he also ran out of stamina during his three-inning stint on the mound. He surrendered a go-ahead home run to Christian Yelich in the 13th, but the Nationals rallied again to tie the game. It was not until Eric Thames’ two-run dinger in the 14th did Washington finally run out of comebacks, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Victor Robles drove in a run in the bottom of the inning, and the Nationals got the winning run to first base. Pinch-hitter Ross struck out to end the game, though.
Washington allowed five homers after the start of the ninth inning, matching a Major League record and becoming just the fourth team in history to do so.
Even though they could not finish the job Saturday, these Nationals are playing with extreme confidence, with a deep, relentless lineup that never feels like it’s out of a game.
The loss snapped a season-high five-game winning streak for Washington, which was looking to put some separation between itself and the Brewers in the National League Wild Card race. Washington still is in control of the top Wild Card spot by 1 1/2 games, but the defeat pushed the Nationals to 5 1/2 games back of the Braves for first place in the NL East.
“We fell short, but man, I’m proud of these guys,” Martinez said. “They don’t quit. They fight until our last out. And they keep fighting.”