Nationals power past Orioles to win slugfest

Nationals power past Orioles to win slugfest

BALTIMORE -- Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa both homered in a four-run sixth inning on Saturday, propelling the Nationals to 7-4 victory over the Orioles to force a rubber match on Sunday in the Battle of the Beltways at Camden Yards.

After seeing Miguel Gonzalez retire 10 Nationals hitters in a row, Harper snapped the streak with a leadoff home run to right to cut the Washington deficit to 4-3. Following back-to-back singles, Espinosa gave the Nationals a 6-4 lead with a three-run to shot to right that ended Gonzalez's night.

Harper's 26th homer of 2015

The Orioles took advantage of the long ball themselves, with Caleb Joseph and Steve Pearce both hitting homers off Jordan Zimmermann, but the offense stalled following Pearce's solo shot in the fourth. Zimmermann gave up four runs in five innings, but he picked up his third win in a row as the Washington bullpen held the Orioles scoreless, helping the Nationals snap a three-game losing streak.

"You're not just going to have it click every night, but it doesn't keep you from trying to," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's hard. Pitchers are good. There's a reason why they're in first place. We'll get better at it."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Espinosa caps powerful rally: Down, 4-2, the Nationals used muscle to score four runs against Gonzalez in the sixth inning. Harper led off with his 26th homer of the season, and first of his career against the Orioles, and after Clint Robinson and Wilson Ramos singled, Espinosa hit an 0-1 pitch over the right-field wall for a three-run homer. It was Espinosa's 10th home run, giving him double-digit dingers for the first time since 2012.

"I was looking for a fastball. The first one I fouled off. I was just a tick late," said Espinosa, who started a double play earlier with a sensational backhanded grab. "The next pitch he threw a split finger. I said, 'Don't try to do too much. Just get a good pitch to hit.' It turned out to be a lot better than the single. I was happy to help the team right there." More >

Espinosa's backhanded stop, flip

Gonzalez crumbles in sixth: Gonzalez had an up-and-down outing. After giving up two runs while facing 11 batters over the first two innings, the right-hander went on to retire the next 10 batters he faced before allowing four straight hits to start the sixth. Gonzalez allowed six runs on nine hits and walked two while striking out four on 79 pitches in five-plus innings. He was helped out by some splendid defense, including a spectacular diving stop by All-Star Manny Machado.

Machado's amazing diving stop

"I think the only thing I'm doing wrong is thinking too much right now," Gonzalez said. "Really not focusing on letting it go and just being myself. Right now, mechanically, I'm just overthinking things right now. I think that's what's getting away from me." More >

Orioles get Escobar out at home

Zimmermann stumbles to eighth win: After being on paternity leave for one day, welcoming his second child Friday, Zimmermann won his eighth game of the season despite three of his four runs allowed coming on a pair of home runs. He allowed nine hits and struck out four.

"It wasn't one of my better outings," Zimmermann said. "I didn't have very good fastball command the whole game. The offspeed was terrible, too. I guess I'm happy with four runs. It could have been a lot worse." More >

Orioles quieted after yard work: The O's generated three of their four runs by way of the home run. Joseph cracked a two-run home run to left-center in the second inning. Pearce, who hadn't hit a homer since May 27 against Houston, hit his towering home run to left, which just snuck inside the foul pole. Pearce was a late addition to the lineup as Chris Davis was scratched with a stomach bug. But that was all the Orioles could muster, going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Pearce's solo shot

"Sometimes, I think we're trying to do too much, and that's a lot easier to say," Showalter said of his team's recent trouble with productive at-bats. "You tell them not to. At this level, pitchers make a living at letting you get yourself out, and I think that's happening, but that's true every night in some form or fashion."

Bullpen comes through for Nats: Unlike Friday night, the Nationals' bullpen pitched four shutout innings. Left-hander Felipe Rivero got Jimmy Paredes to fly out with runners on second and third to end the seventh. Casey Janssen then struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth, and Drew Storen worked around a single and a walk in the ninth to record his 26th save.

Janssen's relief outing

"The bullpen did a really good job today. We had a lot of adversity, got through it and made pitches when we needed to," said Blake Treinen, who pitched around three walks in 1 2/3 innings. More >

Storen earns save, Nats win

QUOTABLE
"We haven't been efficient with men in scoring position, just got to get back to being efficient, bearing down with runners in scoring position. That's all it is. It's not like the opposing pitcher is going to groove a fastball right down the middle and let you do it. So, we got to concentrate more and get it done." -- Adam Jones

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• With 26 home runs, Harper is one home run shy of the Nationals/Expos record for homers before the All-Star break. The record is currently held by Alfonso Soriano, who hit 27 before the break in 2006.

• The Orioles are 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position during this series and 1-for-35 dating back to Monday's series opener in Minnesota. They've left 32 runners on base over that span.

INJURY SCARE
Jones grounded out to third base in the fifth inning, nearly beating the errant throw to first, but he was tagged by Tyler Moore in the jaw. Following the out call, Jones laid on the ground for a moment before jogging off the field. Jones is scheduled to start in the All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile on Tuesday.

Jones stays in the ballgame

WHAT'S NEXT
Nationals: Right-hander Max Scherzer will pitch the final game of the first half against the Orioles on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET, but he will not pitch in the All-Star Game. Scherzer is coming off his worst outing of the season, allowing five runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Reds. More >

Orioles: Wei-Yin Chen will take the mound for Baltimore. Chen has allowed more than three earned runs in just one of his 16 starts this season, and he hasn't given up more than two runs in a start since his last loss on May 30 against Tampa Bay.

Watch every out-of-market regular season game live on MLB.TV.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Connor Smolensky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.