video thumbnail

Must C Clutch: Espinosa, Frandsen power Nats in 9th

PHOENIX -- After being swept by the Athletics in Oakland this past weekend, the Nationals desperately needed a victory, and they were able to get one Monday night at Chase Field.

The Nationals used the long ball, especially in the top of the ninth inning, and defeated the D-backs, 6-5. The victory helped Washington snap its three-game losing streak and improve its record to 20-18. It was also the Nationals' 11th come-from-behind victory.

"We had to get a win today. It was a bad series in Oakland. It was very embarrassing there," center fielder Denard Span said. "We believe we are a good team. That's what good teams do. We made a comeback win. It shows the type of character we have. We have a lot of fight. Even though we have guys down [with injuries], guys are stepping up."

The Nationals were three outs away from losing their fourth straight game, but Danny Espinosa and Kevin Frandsen had other ideas against D-backs reliever Addison Reed. Espinosa led off the ninth inning and hit a 1-0 pitch over the right-field wall. Two batters later, Frandsen entered the game as a pinch-hitter. He worked the count to 2-0 and then homered over the left-field wall to give Washington a one-run lead.

"Both of the home runs they hit out were fastballs," Reed said. "When you are not really throwing your slider where you want to and how you want to, it kind of makes it easier on them."

Frandsen felt the game turned around after Espinosa homered.

"When Espi leads off the inning, the momentum just shifts," Frandsen said. "Obviously, it was a game of momentum, I feel like. … It just happened to be a moment where I'm trying to get on base. I have a 2-0 count. I'm trying to drive the ball in the gap. I'm not a home run guy. I've only had a few in my career. Fortunately, I got it up in the air. I hit it pretty good. It was a win for us."

Once Frandsen reached home, the Nationals were going crazy in the dugout. 

"Wouldn't you?" Frandsen asked after the game. "Let's be honest here, this [past] weekend wasn't fun. We ran into a good Oakland team, but we didn't play our best baseball. We actually played ugly baseball. For us to come back … that's how we've been all year. We're resilient, we keep fighting."

Rafael Soriano saved his eighth game of the season by blanking Arizona in the bottom of the ninth.

Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann had his worst outing since April 9, when he lasted 1 2/3 innings against the Marlins. Zimmermann ended up with a no-decision, allowing five runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings Monday.

The Nationals were ahead, 4-3, when Arizona rallied in the sixth inning. With one out and Aaron Hill on second after a leadoff double, A.J. Pollock hit a 1-0 pitch for a two-run homer over the right-center-field wall to give Arizona a one-run lead.

Zimmermann pitched on seven days' rest, but he didn't use it as an excuse.

"I felt pretty strong out there. The velocity was good. My misses were down the middle," Zimmermann said. "They are a good-hitting team, and they are going to make you pay for pitches you leave in the middle."

The Nationals had a chance to at least tie the game in the top of the seventh inning against reliever Evan Marshall. But it was the case of the ball bouncing the wrong way.

With two outs and Nate McLouth on first, Span hit a ball that hit the warning track and bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. McLouth would have scored easily if the ball stayed in play.

"It's very unfortunate that it bounced over the wall. If it stays in, McLouth was going to score easily. I don't think there would have been a play at home," Span said.

Anthony Rendon was the next hitter, and he hit a hard shot to shortstop Chris Owings, but Owings was able to get Rendon by a whisker at first base.

The Nationals got off to a great start against right-hander Josh Collmenter in the first inning. Span led off with a triple and came home on a sacrifice fly by Rendon. By the next inning, Tyler Moore made it a 2-0 game by hitting a solo homer deep to left-center field.

But Arizona took the lead in the bottom of the third off Zimmermann with three runs of its own. Martin Prado and Paul Goldschmidt had RBI doubles, while Miguel Montero had an RBI single.

The Nationals took the lead in the fourth inning off Collmenter. Wilson Ramos started the inning off with a walk. Ian Desmond followed by hitting a 3-2 pitch over the left-center-field wall to give Washington a one-run lead.

But it was the Nationals' bench that came through in the clutch. Frandsen and Espinosa weren't suppose to see a lot of action this season, but injuries to players such as Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper have allowed them to get their share of at-bats.

"They have been forced into action because of the injuries we've had," manager Matt Williams said. "So they are getting consistent at-bats, which helps. All that kind of builds on itself -- better timing, more sense of feel for the game, and all that stuff, when you get a chance out there. We don't want to rely on that, certainly, and that wasn't the plan. They have been doing really well."

MLB.com Comments