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June 6, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Washington wins a wild one

Facing a stiff challenge for the lead in the National League East, the Washington Nationals welcomed the rival New York Mets to town yesterday. It was a true test of the Nats' ability to win crucial games, a possible preview of the 2012 postseason series, and they passed with flying colors. Thanks to multi-hit performances by Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman, and the pitcher Jordan Zimmermann -- in other words, a genuine team effort -- the Nats beat the Mets 7-6 in an exhausting marathon game on Tuesday night. The Nats took an early lead, as Harper got things going with an RBI single in the third inning. But the Mets came back as Jordany Valdespin and David Wright both hit solo homers in the top of the sixth inning, and briefly took a 4-3 lead in the eighth inning, ruining Jordan Zimmermann's chance of getting a much-needed win. (He has an ERA of 2.82 but has had poor run support this year, so his record in only 3-5.) Ryan Zimmerman led off with a single in the bottom of the eighth, and later scored to tie the game.

In the 10th inning, the reliably un-reliable Henry Rodriguez came in as relief pitcher, and wouldn't you know, he did it again! He gave up a single to the first batter, Scott Hairston, who then stole second, reached third on a fielder's choice, and then scored when H-Rod threw a wild pitch. D'oh! In the bottom of the tenth, the Mets returned the favor of a "gift" run, as shortstop Jordany Valdespin made two errors, allowing Ryan Zimmerman to score the tying run -- again! The bases were loaded and Rick Ankiel had an 3-0 count, and the Nats were one ball away from winning the game with a walk-off walk... But he struck out.

In the 12th inning, Ross Detwiler (the Nats' last bullpen pitcher) gave up a home run to the first batter (Scott Hairston, again!), and struggled to prevent another run from scoring. In the bottom of the 12th, Michael Morse led off with a double that almost cleared the right field scoreboard wall, and then Ian Desmond doubled him in to tie the game. Once again, the momentum shifted in an instant, and before long, the bases were loaded once again, and it was all up to Bryce Harper. On an 0-2 count, he sliced a single to left field, driving in the winning run. YES! smile It was Harper's first career walk-off RBI, and he was rewarded with a Gatorade shower after the game, courtesy of teammate Michael Morse. As I wrote on Facebook, it is wonderful that a powerful long-ball hitter like Harper can stay focused in the batter's box, and get the clutch RBI single when it's needed.

The Nats came back from one-run deficits three times in that game, and each time it was Ian Desmond who got the clutch RBI. His recent improvement as a batter has been very encouraging. That game really established the Nationals as a genuinely tough, competitive team that has their collective sights set on October. True, they did blow some opportunities, but they never gave up. It reminded me of that amazing back-and-forth Game Six of the 2011 World Series. Nats fans will remember it for a long time to come.

In tonight's game, the Nats jumped to an even earlier lead, thanks to a three-run homer by Adam LaRoche in the first inning. After a great first six weeks of the season, his batting average has been dropping like a rock lately, probably ruining his chances at an All-Star selection. Anyway, this time the Nats held on to their lead, thanks to RBIs by Michael Morse (his first of the year) and LaRoche (a sac fly). Starting pitcher Edwin Jackson only gave up three hits in seven innings, thus earning his second win of the year. Tyler Clippard (not Henry Rodriguez!) got his fifth save.

It's worth mentioning that even though Michael Morse got off to a slow start in his first two games after returning from the disabled list, he showed his slugging potential with two doubles on Tuesday, and two singles on Wednesday. His presence in the Nats' lineup makes a huge difference, raising hopes that Washington duke it out with the best of them in the NL East and make it to the postseason.

Baseball heroes of D-Day

Today is the 68th anniversary of the Allied landings on the coast of Normandy, in northern France: "D-Day," June 6, 1944. Most baseball fans are aware that big-name stars such as Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Bob Feller volunteered for military duty during World War II, but few of us are familiar the lesser-known players who did likewise. Author Gary Bedingfield is building a biographical database of baseball players who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces, at Here are the players who sacrificed their lives for their country on the battlefields of Normandy:

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 07 Jun 2012, 12: 14 AM

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