Late comeback pushes Nats to series-opening win over Phils

Late comeback pushes Nats to series-opening win over Phils
May 2, 2014, 10:30 pm
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(Associated Press)

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: It was billed as a stellar pitching matchup between Stephen Strasburg and Cliff Lee, but this game was decided well after both starting hurlers were out of the game. The Phillies jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first after Jayson Werth dropped a foul ball that gave Marlon Byrd new life and the opportunity to crush a 3-run homer. Strasburg, though, settled down after that and kept the Phillies from expanding their lead.

The Nationals chipped away at Lee, with Tyler Moore homering in the third and later scoring on Denard Span's RBI groundout in the fifth. That inning was more notable for the benches-clearing moment that occurred after Lee quick-pitched and buzzed Span with a tight fastball while Span was trying to call for time out.

No matter, though. The Nationals simply waited until the Phillies' bullpen entered the game and then did what they've already done so many times this season: Mount a late rally. They scored three runs off Mike Adams and Jake Diekman, getting clutch hits from Anthony Rendon and Adam LaRoche to take the lead and turn the game over to their bullpen.

Tyler Clippard put himself in a jam in the bottom of the eighth but pitched his way out of it. Rafael Soriano then finished things off with his club-record 23rd consecutive scoreless inning, securing the Nationals' ninth come-from-behind victory of the year.

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HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Quick: Who were the Nationals' two most-productive and clutch hitters in April? Rendon and LaRoche. Well, they're also the Nats' most-productive and clutch hitters so far in May. With the game on the line in the top of the eighth, Rendon delivered the game-tying hit with a sharp single up the middle, giving him 21 RBI in 29 games. Two batters later, LaRoche delivered the go-ahead hit with a single to center off a left-hander, giving him 18 RBI. The Nationals entered this game with a collective .828 OPS against opposing relievers, which is really good. And that number only went up tonight.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Yes, Strasburg did serve up the 3-run homer to Byrd moments after Werth's error, continuing a frustrating trend that dates back to last season. But give the right-hander credit for clamping down after that. He scattered four hits and a walk from the second through the sixth innings, keeping the game under control and giving his teammates a chance to rally (which they did). At only 83 pitches, he easily could have continued but was a victim of his spot in the lineup coming up with the Nats trailing in the top of the seventh. You can harp on the one negative with Strasburg in this game, or you can appreciate the multiple positives. In this case, it seems appropriate to focus on the positives.

KEY STAT: Tyler Moore is now 6-for-12 with three doubles and two homers in his career against Cliff Lee.

UP NEXT: The series continues with another strong pitching matchup. Tanner Roark looks to continue his magic against veteran A.J. Burnett, off to a strong start with the Phillies. First pitch at Citizens Bank Park is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Saturday.