Nationals charge back late to sweep Giants

Nationals charge back late to sweep Giants

Nationals charge back late to sweep Giants
WASHINGTON -- If there was a statement to be made to the National League this week in Washington, it was drafted Tuesday evening, gained steam Wednesday afternoon, picked up again in the seventh inning Thursday night before going into full transmission with one final game-winner in the series finale.

The Giants entered Nationals Park this week with the second-best record in the NL, behind the first-place Nats, and left having been swept for the first time since the first three days of May.

As for the Nationals, a come-from-behind, walk-off 6-5 win capped by a lucky break on an Adam LaRoche bases-loaded grounder Thursday brought them to a season-best 16 games over .500.

"This ballclub -- there's no quit in the ballclub," manager Davey Johnson said. "There's a lot of character in this ballclub. Now that everybody's kind of doing their thing, it's easy to get a little momentum going. The offense came alive against three pretty good pitchers. Our pitching staff is pleased, and I'm pleased. It's been fun."

True enough, after tagging two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum for a season-high eight runs and 10-game winner Madison Bumgarner for a season-high seven, the Nats stayed in it against stellar right-hander Matt Cain in the series finale.

"He always throws good, or it seems like he does," said Nats rookie Bryce Harper, who brought Washington within one with an RBI double in the seventh and tied it with a single in the ninth. "So you know going in you have to battle for those first seven innings and try to stay in the game as much as you can so you can get into their bullpen."

The Nationals did just that in the seventh when they finally broke through against Cain. He won eight consecutive decisions spanning more than a month from mid-May to mid-June -- including his June 13 perfect game -- but Washington's offense, which had averaged 8.63 runs per game over the last eight, made its mark.

"We played Texas and Anaheim, two really good teams," Giants second baseman Ryan Theriot said. "In my opinion, these guys are right up there."

Cain had allowed just four hits entering the seventh but the Nationals suddenly found themselves back in it -- and Cain out of it -- with back-to-back solo homers from Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, cutting it to 5-3.

"Once Desi hit that bomb, I was sitting there and I said to LaRoche, 'We're going to win this game,' and to be ready for it," Harper said. "Once Desi got that going in the seventh, that's when the tide started to roll our way."

LaRoche sensed it, too.

"It's hard to explain what that is and why that is, but it's something that really good teams have," the nine-year veteran said. "And we're getting that sense."

Mark DeRosa doubled later in the inning off Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt and score on Harper's double, trimming the lead to one.

Henry Rodriguez and Tyler Clippard each pitched shutout frames, following starter Ross Detwiler -- who admitted to falling behind the entire game, saying, "The bases were loaded, it seemed like, every pitch I threw" -- and Craig Stammen. It set the scene for the ninth-inning heroics, which began with a Tyler Moore pinch-hit double.

From there, Giants reliever Santiago Casilla misplayed a Steve Lombardozzi bunt, before Harper brought home the tying run with a hard-hit single through the infield to right. Ryan Zimmerman was walked and moved to second on a fielder's choice ground ball off the bat of Michael Morse.

It put Zimmerman in perfect position to see the game-winning play, a potential double-play ball to second that Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford bounced on his failed throw to first.

"Hopefully, Adam's fast enough," Zimmerman said he thought to himself, poking fun at LaRoche's meager speed. "Actually, I know he's not fast enough. ... Those are the things that have happened for us this year. We've got some opportunities and we've caught some breaks. More importantly, we've taken advantage of those breaks.

"Good teams do that."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.