Ninth-inning rally boosts the Nationals to their first win

Ninth-inning rally boosts the Nationals to their first win

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 2

CINCINNATI — For so much of Saturday afternoon, the Washington Nationals had chances to build a sizable lead. But they didn’t. As a result, they entered the ninth inning trailing by two, with Cincinnati Reds closer Alexis Díaz staring them down.

Down to their last chance, the Nationals found a path to their first win in a 7-6 victory at Great American Ball Park. The comeback took just about every National in the lineup do it — and a few who came off the bench to help.

It started with CJ Abrams’s walk and stolen base. He had three of each.

“[Manager Dave Martinez] tells me if I walk, it’s a double,” said Abrams, who reached base four times and scored three runs. “So just try to get on there for the team and score runs.”

That he did. After a Lane Thomas strikeout came singles by Jesse Winker and Joey Meneses, trimming the Nationals’ deficit to 6-5 and putting runners at the corners with one out. The comeback effort took Victor Robles, who entered to pinch-run for Winker, and Nasim Nuñez, who made his major league debut by pinch-running for Meneses and promptly stole second to put two in scoring position.

It took the patience of Joey Gallo, who entered his at-bat 0 for 8 with six strikeouts, to draw a four-pitch walk that loaded the bases for Keibert Ruiz. Ruiz had tied the score at 4 in the eighth when he hit a sky-scraping solo shot. But then Hunter Harvey allowed a two-out, two-run double to Nick Martini — who dominated Opening Day on Thursday — in the bottom half to put the Reds up 6-4.

In the ninth, Ruiz didn’t even need his bat: He was grazed by a Díaz pitch, allowing Robles to trot home. And then Eddie Rosario hit a sacrifice fly off Brent Suter that drove in Nuñez and put the Nationals (1-1) in front.

“Everybody was doing his part,” Ruiz said.

The victory also took Kyle Finnegan, who entered in the bottom half for his first save. And it even took Trey Lipscomb, the No. 9 hitter who was making his major league debut. He didn’t hit in the ninth, but with two outs and a runner on first during the Reds’ turn to bat, Tyler Stephenson hit a weak grounder to third. Lipscomb charged, threw across his body to nail Stephenson by a step and sealed the win.

The scene — Gallo hugging Lipscomb on the mound as the Nationals lined up for high-fives — would have been a shock just a few days ago. When Martinez sent Lipscomb to minor league camp earlier in the week, he hoped to see him again soon — but maybe not Saturday afternoon as the Nationals’ starting third baseman.

Lipscomb wasn’t expecting to be back this early, either, but then Nick Senzel fractured his right thumb in warmups Thursday. Lipscomb was taking batting practice when his manager called a team meeting to assign hotel room pairings for Class AAA Rochester’s trip to Syracuse. Lipscomb’s name was picked out of a hat — and it was revealed his room would be in Cincinnati. By Saturday, he was in a big league dugout.

“First time getting out here and seeing the field, I think it’s all starting to kick in right now,” the 23-year-old Frederick native said. “Definitely was a numb feeling. Didn’t know how to feel, but it feels good. Excited to be here.”

Lipscomb ended last season at Class AA Harrisburg and won a minor league Gold Glove at third base. With a strong spring training, he nearly beat out Luis García Jr. for the second base job. Martinez wanted Lipscomb to play every day for Rochester, but now he will have the opportunity to do so in the majors.

Senzel, who had a splint on his thumb Saturday, was placed on the 10-day injured list. He won’t need surgery, and his return depends on his pain tolerance. Lipscomb will fill his spot in the meantime, though Martinez said he also will play some second base.

“He played well in spring training. I thought for a second he may break with the team,” Senzel said of Lipscomb. “Happy to see him. Obviously, it’s under unfortunate circumstances for me, but I want him to play well. I told him to just be him and just enjoy it.”

Lipscomb picked up his first hit in the third inning on a grounder that bounced off the glove of Reds third baseman Jeimer Candelario, then stole second base. He was stranded there, a common occurrence early for the Nationals in this one.

An inning later, they had runners at second and third with no outs after Winker walked and Meneses doubled. Ruiz hit a blooper into no man’s land that gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead, but that was it. In the bottom half, Candelario homered off Patrick Corbin to knot the score at 1.

The Nationals had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth but scored just one run; Meneses’s sacrifice fly brought home Abrams. But the Reds (1-1) answered in the bottom half again. Corbin allowed four hits in a row — the first was a bunt by Elly De La Cruz, but he was caught stealing. Stuart Fairchild singled, Luke Maile homered to put the Reds in front, and Will Benson doubled. That ended Corbin’s day. When Jonathan India singled against reliever Derek Law, the Reds led 4-2.

But the Nationals — young and old — clawed their way back to steal a win on the road.

“I give kudos to our whole team,” Martinez said. “That was a good win for us. We battled back. We were behind. We hung in there. … I know one thing about this team: We’re going to fight for 27 outs. And they showed it today.”

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