Nationals steal victory from Pirates
The Washington Nationals did not do a lot of things right Saturday in their 5-4 victory over the Pirates. But they picked the perfect time for an unlikely double steal, then came up with a flawless defensive play.
Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche pulled off the double steal in the top of the ninth inning. With one out, reliever Tony Watson hit Zimmerman on the leg with a pitch. LaRoche singled to right field.
Watson was trying to hold runners on base by taking single and double looks before starting his delivery. On a 1-1 pitch to Tyler Moore, Watson went no-look.
“If they're going to give me third base, I'm going to take it,” said Zimmerman, who shambled around the postgame clubhouse with an ice pack strapped to his left shin.
Zimmerman and LaRoche were safe without drawing a throw from catcher Russell Martin. That gave the duo a total of 38 stolen bases ... in 2,221 career games.
“I definitely wasn't expecting those two guys to double steal off me,” Watson (1-1) admitted. “That's what good players do. They catch you sleeping and make you pay for it.”
Nationals manager Davey Johnson called for the steals with confidence, knowing Watson's delivery time to the plate is about 1.8 seconds.
“It was a no-brainer,” Johnson said. “We know which (pitchers) are slow and which guys are fast — and which guys people like me actually have a chance to steal bases against,” Zimmerman said. “No matter who you are, if a guy gives you a high leg kick like that and is almost two seconds to the plate, you should be able to steal a base.”
Moore hit a fly ball to right field, scoring Zimmerman to give Washington a 5-4 lead.
Facing closer Rafael Soriano, Martin began the bottom of the ninth with a line-drive hit to left-center field.
“Right out of the box, I was thinking double,” said Martin, who made a crisp turn at first base and raced toward second.
Martin said center fielder Roger Bernadina readied to scoop up the ball. Bernadina is a left-handed thrower, so Martin knew he'd have to spin around, then fire a quick strike to second base.
It would take a perfect play to throw Martin out.
“It happened,” Martin said with a shrug.
Martin slid toward the left of the bag, trying to avoid the tag, but second baseman Danny Espinosa got it down.
“It was an aggressive play, but it ended up being a mistake,” Martin said. “It wasn't a no-doubter, but I wanted to be on second base with nobody out. It would have been a huge advantage. If (Bernadina) would've gotten there a hair faster, maybe it would've stopped me. But as I went around first base, I knew I had to take a shot.”
Pedro Alvarez flew out, capping an 0-for-4 day, and Jordy Mercer struck out to end it.
The fireworks in the ninth inning belied the previous eight, which were filled with a lot of baserunners but not much action by either team.
The Nationals stranded 11 baserunners and were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. The Pirates left three runners on and were 1 for 5 with RISP.
The teams combined to use eight pitchers, who hit a total of five batters. Pirates starter Jeff Locke nicked one, Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg plunked two and Watson hit two.
The Pirates took a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning. Mercer singled, and Barmes smacked his first home run of the season.
“The pitch before it was bad, too,” Strasburg said. “I laid one in there, just, ‘Here it is. Hit it.' ”
The Nationals tied it in the sixth. Locke gave up a single and a walk. Wilson Ramos hit a two-run single off Justin Wilson.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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