Quick thoughts on the Nationals' ninth-inning 6-5 comeback win over Craig Kimbrel and the Braves in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader ...
How rare of a blow-up was it for Craig Kimbrel? It was the first time he'd allowed three runs in game in his career and just the third time in two seasons he's allowed more than one run. He'd walked two batters in a game just three times previously in 2013, and in one of those appearances one of the walks was intentional.
So great job by Adam LaRoche to start the inning by working the walk on the 3-2 fastball. A little surprising that Kimbrel didn't go to the slider there. Lefties were hitting .068 against the slider -- with 33 strikeouts and no walks in 44 plate appearances ending with that pitch. Basically, when Kimbrel gets to two strikes, the slider is unhittable.
From there, an infield single, another walk, an RBI groundout and the rare error from Andrelton Simmons that allowed the winning runs to score.
Where is Jayson Werth on your MVP ballot? He had an RBI double off Mike Minor in the Nationals' three-run first inning and is hitting .322/.398/.536 with 23 home runs and 74 RBIs. Certainly he's been a huge key in keeping the Nationals from disintegrating with a monster second half in which he's hit .352 with 41 RBIs in 52 games. Still, he missed all but one game in May, and those 30 missing games count against him. He's been Washington's most valuable position player, but I'm not sure he'd crack my top-10 MVP ballot due to the injury.
The Nationals' chances to catch the Reds are still pretty slim, sitting 4½ games back heading into Tuesday night's games. Put it this way: If Washington goes 10-2 in its final 12 games, it needs Cincinnati to go 5-6 over its final 11 to match the Reds at 90 wins. Now, that's possible; the Reds do play the Pirates in six of those games, but they also get the Astros twice more and the Mets three times next week. The Nationals face the Marlins after the Braves but finish up with a six-game road trip to St. Louis and Arizona. The Cardinals will still be fighting for the division title, although Arizona may be thinking about golf by then. Our playoff odds from coolstandings.com gives the Nationals a 4 percent chance of making it. Things will look a lot more interesting after Tuesday night, however, if Washington wins again and Cincinnati loses.
What's been the big turnaround for the Nats? On Aug. 19 they were 60-64. Since then they've gone 20-6. Well, the schedule has been key. Twenty-two of those 26 games have come against sub-.500 teams (thank you, NL East). They've hit .293/.359/.479 over those 26 games. Thank you, bad pitching. OK, Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman finally got going.
Washington starts rookie Tanner Roark in the nightcap against Freddy Garcia -- yes, that Freddy Garcia -- so it's a good opportunity for another win since Freddy Garcia is Freddy Garcia. Roark is making his third start, but he's kind of been a good-luck charm of late with a 6-0 record. I'm guessing Kimbrel is unavailable, and maybe Luis Avilan as well. Kimbrel threw 27 pitches, Avilan 13, and there's little incentive for Fredi Gonzalez to burn through his best relievers with division all but clinched.