Young guns bat, slide Nationals to ninth-straight win

Young guns bat, slide Nationals to ninth-straight win
August 20, 2014, 10:30 pm
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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: In search of only the second nine-game winning streak in club history, the Nationals did plenty of things right. They got another highly effective start from Tanner Roark (seven scoreless innings), got a couple of big hits from Asdrubal Cabrera and Jayson Werth and a nice takeout slide from Bryce Harper that brought home a run.

All they needed was a couple of clean innings from the back end of their now-rested bullpen. Which they couldn't get. Tyler Clippard gave up a game-tying, two-run homer to Ender Inciarte in the top of the eighth, turning a 2-0 lead into a 2-2 game and spoiling Roark's fine effort.

Once again, though, the Nationals bounced back from some adversity. Rafael Soriano tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth after getting two days off following his blown save. And then Anthony Rendon delivered the pinch-hit single that scored Harper and won the game in the bottom of the ninth. Thus the Nationals kept the streak alive. They've now won nine in a row, with four of the last five coming in walk-off fashion. They'll go for a club record-tying 10th straight win tomorrow afternoon.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The game-winning rally was ignited by Harper, who worked the count full and then roped a leadoff single up the middle, his third hit of the night. Wilson Ramos, perhaps trying too hard to end it in dramatic fashion, struck out on three pitches, but Kevin Frandsen followed with a sharp grounder past a diving Aaron Hill up the middle. Harper aggressively went first-to-third on the hit, and that set the stage for Rendon. Out of the lineup for the first time after 62 consecutive starts, Rendon roped a hard grounder down the third-base line. Harper sprinted home and the Nationals celebrated once again.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: For all the angst over Rafael Soriano, Clippard is in his own rut right now. Given a chance to close on Monday when Soriano needed the night off, Clippard served up the game-tying homer to David Peralta. Back in his familiar setup role tonight, he did it again. A leadoff walk to Jordan Pacheco set the table. Then Inciarte's two-run homer sealed the deal. Clippard hadn't given up a homer since April 11. All of a sudden, he has allowed two in three days. And the Nationals' bullpen has been charged with three blown saves in four days. Not good.

KEY STAT: Five major-league pitchers have at least 10 starts this season giving up zero or one run while going at least seven innings: Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels and Tanner Roark.

UP NEXT: This four-game series concludes with a 4:05 p.m. matinee that also happens to be Ian Desmond bobblehead giveaway day. Gio Gonzalez gets the start for the Nationals, trying to get himself back on track, facing fellow lefty Wade Miley.

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