Resilient Nationals rally twice to win
Flores has big day with three hits, two RBIs, including homer
PHOENIX -- One thing that could be said about a team managed by Manny Acta: It never gives up. Entering Sunday's action, the Nationals had 24 come-from-behind wins. Make it 25, as Washington edged the Diamondbacks, 7-6, at Chase Field.
The Nationals were able to salvage a victory after losing the first two games of the series. They finished the road trip at 3-4.
"It has been normal for us pretty much," Acta said. "These guys don't give up. They are going to give me everything they have every day, and sometimes we do this kind of thing."
It looked like the game was going to be a repeat of Saturday's contest, in which Arizona right-hander Brandon Webb dominated Washington. On Sunday, right-hander Micah Owings was nearly unstoppable.
He lasted 6 1/3 innings and gave up the one run on four hits. Washington was hitless in the first 4 2/3 innings. The Nationals were finally able to get to Owings in the fifth when Jesus Flores singled to center field to score Ronnie Belliard.
Nationals left-hander Mike Bacsik, just five days removed from giving up Barry Bonds' record-breaking 756th home run, had nothing in the tank. Bacsik lasted four innings and gave up five runs on eight hits. Arizona scored the first two runs in the first inning on RBI singles by Conor Jackson and Mark Reynolds.
The Diamondbacks used the long ball to get to Bacsik in the third inning. Eric Byrnes hit a home run and -- three batters later -- Reynolds hit a two-run homer.
But once Owings left the game, it was all Nationals. Down 5-1, Washington made its comeback in the eighth inning off two relievers. With Tony Pena on the mound, Ryan Zimmerman tripled home Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns singled to left to drive in Zimmerman.
Left-hander Doug Slaten entered the game for Arizona and gave up a two-run homer to Ryan Church to tie the score at 5. Church knew it was gone the moment he hit it as he stood and watched it go over the right-field fence.
For Church, it was arguably his biggest hit in a Nationals uniform. All year, he had problems hitting lefties. He was hitting .222 with no home runs this season against southpaws.
"In that situation, I was able to get in a good hitter's count -- 3-1 -- got a fastball and did something with it," Church said. "Coming up through the Minor Leagues, I have always been able to hit lefties. It's just one of those things where you want to get in there on an everyday basis and see them at-bat after at-bat.
"These guys that come out of the bullpen -- those lefty specialists -- they are dirty, and they are supposed to do one job and that's to get you out with that nasty stuff up there. I hope it carries over the next time I face another lefty out of the bullpen."
With Washington right-hander Jon Rauch on the mound, the Diamondbacks had runners on first and third when Stephen Drew hit a sacrifice fly to right field to drive in Justin Upton and break the 5-5 tie.
"I felt pretty bad about letting the team down today and not keeping it tied at that point," Rauch said. "It would have been a long flight had we lost that game. It would not have been a pleasant experience. Let's not talk about that."
With Arizona leading, 6-5, the Nationals made their second comeback, this one against closer Jose Valverde in the top of the ninth inning.
Flores led off and found himself behind, 0-2, in the count. But Flores battled back and flicked the next pitch over the left-field wall to tie the score at 6. For the game, Flores went 3-for-4, and Acta is amazed at how Flores continues to play quality baseball despite his limited playing time and where he was a year ago.
"He is not intimidated. That's a fact," Acta said. "He has played with the confidence that he belongs up here, regardless of where he comes from. That was a tremendous game that he played today. Let's take in consideration that he is a Rule 5 [Draft] guy from A ball and he plays once a week."
Robert Fick followed Flores with a triple to right-center field. Lopez followed and hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Fick for the go-ahead run.
For Fick, he needed the hit in a big way. Because of a lack of playing time, he has struggled all season with the bat and found himself below .200 for most of the season. Fick was not available for comment, but his best friend, Dmitri Young, understands what Fick is going through this season.
"He hasn't been able to find consistency due to lack of playing time," Young said. "You need those at-bats to find the rhythm. He has been swinging well the last few days, and he is finally seeing those pitches that he is able to hit. That was huge for us."
The winner was Rauch, who leads the team with eight wins, while Chad Cordero picked up his 26th save of the season.
"We basically stole a game, but it shows that we never give up until the last out," Church said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.