Nats' rain-delayed win is worth the wait

Nats' rain-delayed win is worth the wait
August 14, 2013, 1:45 am
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Roark gets second win amid long, eventful victory

If you're going to slog your way through 3 hours and 20 minutes of baseball — with a 77-minute rain delay in between the fourth and fifth innings on top of all that, not to mention a heated dugout argument between teammates — in front of a crowd that included mostly close friends and family by night's end, you might as well emerge victorious.

So despite the fact there were plenty of negatives to harp on the Nationals late Tuesday — the in-plain-view spat between Jayson Werth and Gio Gonzalez, another hamstring injury for Wilson Ramos, a 2-for-13 performance with runners in scoring position — the simple fact they walked away with a 4-2 win (their fourth straight) over the Giants left everyone in the home clubhouse feeling better.

"Nice to win, first of all," Adam LaRoche said. "It's tough burning your starter like that, as well as he was throwing. ... Good win, good little streak we're on. Better late than never, but we're still in a hole pretty good, so we've got a lot of work to do."

Indeed, the Nationals gained no ground on Tuesday, neither in the NL East nor in the NL Wild Card race. But the standings have become secondary for this underachieving club for now. These guys just want to win games, something they hadn't been able to do with any regularity over the season's first four months.

So this four-game winning streak, only their third of the season, provides a nice respite from everything else that has gone wrong. And there were several things that went wrong in this game.

Start with the Werth-Gonzalez incident, which came in the dugout in the middle of the first inning. Television cameras caught the two teammates in a heated discussion, with pitching coach Steve McCatty and hitting coach Rick Schu stepping in to separate the duo. The genesis of the argument: Werth was unhappy Gonzalez was slow to cover first base on a potentially inning-ending double play.

"I just, I kind of read it wrong," Gonzalez said of the grounder to the right side of the infield. "I didn't think LaRoche was going to make that play, I thought [second baseman] Anthony [Rendon] was. But I didn't cover the bag. It was the way I fell off the mound."

Gonzalez declined to elaborate on what actually happened in the dugout. Werth declined to talk about anything after the game.

"Spirits are high," manager Davey Johnson said, downplaying the incident. "I like it. It's no big deal."

It became less of a big deal because Gonzalez tossed four scoreless innings before an intense thunderstorm struck the area and forced everyone to take cover for the next one hour and 17 minutes. At that point, the delay was too lenghty for either starting pitcher to re-take the mound, particularly Gonzalez, who also was dealing with a stiff back.

"He wanted to go back out there if it was only like 45 minutes," Johnson said. "But once it was going to be over an hour, there was no chance with a tight back. I don't care how much you throw in the cages, it's not going to help. I'm not going to take a chance on hurting his arm."

Needing five innings out of their bullpen, the Nationals managed to cobble the rest of the game together. Tanner Roark tossed two innings and wound up earning his second win in four days. Fernando Abad and Ryan Mattheus labored through the seventh but limited the damage to one run. Tyler Clippard escaped a jam in the eighth, paving the way for Rafael Soriano to notch his 30th save with a clean ninth inning.

"Unfortunately, Gio was doing pretty well and then the rain delay," Roark said. "But as a group, we're out there grinding and going after every single hitter as best as we can, as hard as we can."

The Nationals needed to scratch and claw their way to their four runs to pull this one off. They went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, neither of those hits actually driving in runs.

Wilson Ramos' RBI groundout in the fourth brought home the first run, though it came at a cost: Ramos re-injured the same hamstring muscle that twice has landed him on the DL this season. Johnson said team doctors don't believe this one is serious, and Ramos' status remains day-to-day.

The big blow came two innings later, when LaRoche hammered a waist-high fastball from Guillermo Moscoso off the facade of the second deck in right field, a two-run homer that put the Nationals on top for good.

"He comes with a first-pitch curveball for a ball, got a [runner] on first, so I'm assuming he's going after me," said LaRoche, whose 17 homers are tied with Werth and Bryce Harper for the team lead. "Left one out over the plate, and I hit it pretty good."

Kurt Suzuki provided a key insurance run in the eighth, lofting a sacrifice fly to right that scored Werth. It may not have been a highlight-reel performance from the Nationals' lineup, but it was good enough to eke out this victory.

Which, given everything else going on these days, is all the Nationals could ask for.

"I can't remember the last time we put four wins together," LaRoche said. "Feels like it hasn't happened this year. Obviously been a while. You just build off it. It'd be nice if we could rewind and go back to April and start this thing over again. But that's baseball. Keep grinding."