11-inning victory vital for Nats: ‘Huge win’

5:56 AM UTC

The Nationals had been waiting for their offense to click, insisting they were one hit away from things shifting in their favor. With three homers early on Wednesday night — two from Ryan Zimmerman and one from Juan Soto — the hits, and runs, finally trickled in. Washington scored four runs across the 10th and 11th innings, winning the series finale 9-7 over Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field.

“It was a battle,” said manager Dave Martinez. “These guys fought to the end. Those at-bats were exactly what we’re looking for in those situations. It was great.”

Timely hitting and creating big moments with runners in scoring position has become an Achilles heel for the Nationals. But the tides turned in the extra innings on Wednesday, as Washington battled back and scored two runs in both the 10th and 11th innings to break the team’s three-game losing streak.

Yan Gomes smacked the first hit with runners in scoring position on the night for the Nationals in the 10th inning, giving the Nats a lead in their fourth extra-innings game of the season. The offense continued to grind, with Kyle Schwarber knocking in the intentionally-walked Soto.

Entering the 11th tied 7-7, Starlin Castro smacked an RBI double off the first pitch of the inning, then Josh Harrison provided an insurance run by driving in Castro on a sacrifice fly to center field.

“It was a great job,” said Zimmerman, who had three RBIs in the win. “[It was] obviously a game we needed to win. Good win for us, a good way to end a road trip and hopefully take some momentum.”

Not only did Zimmerman record his first multi-homer game since April 21, 2019, but Soto also smacked his fourth homer of the road trip, dating back to May 31.

Soto’s homer came on the 14th pitch of the game, giving the Nats an early lead. Martinez had repeatedly stressed that the key to jump-starting his offense would be scoring early.

A win is a win, however, some red flags jumped out to Martinez on Wednesday. Starting pitcher Patrick Corbin struggled early, walking three batters to start the game. He was able to pitch four scoreless innings after that first inning, but the skipper needed to turn to his already fatigued bullpen in the sixth inning.

Despite the offense coming alive early, Washington’s bullpen was unable to secure the win. Kyle Finnegan gave up a solo homer in the seventh inning and Daniel Hudson gave up one in the eighth that tied the game, 5-5. The Nationals’ relievers have been called upon often during the road trip, causing some uncharacteristic mistakes. It was the first homer Finnegan has allowed since April 27 (16 appearances), and the first for Hudson since April 28 (15 appearances).

Going forward, the Nats need their offense, starting pitchers and bullpen to be on the same page to prevent these “fight to the last out games”. Even so, Martinez remains confident in his team, quickly stating that this game could have absolutely been the one to turn things around.

“It was a huge win,” said Martinez. “Coming in here, we know Tampa is good, in first place, and I thought we battled. I told the boys, I said, ‘Hey, you know what? We could do this. I mean, we really can.’ We got the team to do that. Now, [if we can] get the outs that we need, things can turn around really quickly.”

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