- 142 wins
- 110 wins
CHICAGO -- The Nationals have had no shortage of dramatics in the last 48 hours.
One night after manager Jim Riggleman abruptly resigned following a walk-off win, the Nationals battled to a 9-5 victory over the White Sox in their longest game of the season, despite blowing leads in the ninth, 10th and 12th innings and watching interim manager John McLaren get ejected in his first game at the helm.
The Nationals, who have won 12 of their last 13, finally built a lead big enough to hold in the top of the 14th when they erupted for four runs after a two-out throwing error kept the inning alive. Brian Bixler, who filled in for Jerry Hairston Jr. after he was ejected on the same play as McLaren, went 2-for-3 and scored what turned out to be the game-winning run on the error by White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
"That's as much intensity as I've seen in the game in 24 years," McLaren said. "It was incredible. The passion [our players] had, and their will to win. We made some mistakes pitching, but we were able to overcome it."
Those mistakes included reliever Drew Storen serving up a game-tying, three-run homer to pinch-hitter Mark Teahen in the bottom of the ninth and Tyler Clippard allowing catcher A.J. Pierzynski to tie the game yet again with a solo blast in the 12th on an 0-2 pitch with two outs. Prior to the Teahen home run, the Nationals pitching staff hadn't allowed a run in 22 2/3 innings.
"We did a great job of battling back," said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who was just 1-for-7 but had a two-run double in the decisive 14th inning. "It's tough to scrape runs across against those guys with their 'pen. They have a really great bullpen, and they did a great job against ours, too."
After Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann and White Sox starter Edwin Jackson combined to give up 11 hits in seven scoreless innings, the two bullpens combined to allow 14 runs on 23 hits in their seven innings of work.
"I was happy, but at the end of the day, this is a team game and it's not about me," Jackson said. "It's a long game, we battled back and fought back numerous times. Unfortunately we fell short tonight."
Despite earning a no-decision, Zimmermann has now turned in 10 straight quality starts for the Nationals and is 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA in his last five starts.
"After the first inning, I'd say everything was working good," Zimmermann said. "Baseball's a weird thing. There's highs and lows, and I'm pretty sure we hit every high and low you can have tonight. It was good to get the win though."
Along with striking out four batters, Zimmermann received plenty of help from his defense, which may have saved the game on several occasions, most notably in the sixth and seventh innings. With a runner on and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, struggling designated hitter Adam Dunn crushed a ball to right-center field but was robbed of a two-run homer by center fielder Roger Bernadina. One inning later, first baseman Michael Morse made a diving two-out catch with runners on first and second to take a base hit away from Juan Pierre in what was still a scoreless game.
Then, after Morse hit a two-run homer in the top of the eighth, a controversial call at first base in the bottom of the inning led to the ejections of McLaren and Hairston. With two outs, nobody on and the Nationals leading 2-0, White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko was called out when Morse came off the bag to field a throw from shortstop Ian Desmond but tagged the slugger as he ran past.
Konerko immediately argued and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen came onto the field. Home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson eventually overturned first-base umpire Mike Estabrook's call, saying Morse missed the tag. Hairston and McLaren were tossed as they argued the rare overruling, but reliever Sean Burnett retired the next batter to end the inning.
"I think those plays are always tricky," Zimmerman said. "Obviously they want it to be overturned and we don't, so someone is going to be mad either way. It's the kind of the thing tonight where it seemed like it probably should have happened in a game like this."
Aside from all the off-field drama the Nationals have dealt with in the past two days, this was their second straight game that came down to the final inning after winning Thursday's 1-0 game against the Mariners on a walk-off sacrifice fly. As Friday's starter, Zimmermann said the key to the hard-fought victory was not letting the emotional ride of the walk-off victory and Riggleman's sudden resignation affect them.
"We just put that behind us and went out and played the way we've been playing the last 10, 12 games," Zimmermann said. "We've got a good thing going and everyone's playing well. We just want to keep rolling."
"This has got to go down as a pretty good game," McLaren said. "A great game. It had everything in it, it was action-packed. Their guys got big hits when they had to, and it was just a knockdown, drag-out. We feel good that we came out on the good side."
With the win the Nationals improved to 39-37. They are 16-6 in June after posting losing records in both April and May.
Paul Casella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.