Once Upon A Time In Arizona
There’s a reason why the Washington Nationals don’t like the Arizona’s Diamondbacks. Since the days of hotdogging Eric Byrnes, the D-Backs have been known as a showboating franchise with a nasty streak — and they proved it again during the just-concluded four game series with the Nationals.
While the Nationals were able to pull out a win in the 11th inning of the final game of the four game set (an inning that included a Michael Morse grand slam dinger), the series was noted for its HBP scoring notations: two hit batters in game one (Upton and Werth), Upton twice in game two, one hit batter in game three (Werth, again) and five in game four (Upton, Werth, Morse and Espinosa — twice). By the end of the series detail-oriented scorers had notched nine unemotional HBPs in their books, with Upton being hit four times — and Werth three. Both teams anticipated a bench-clearing brawl (and it certainly would have cleared the air), but it never quite came.
The HBPs took their toll: by the time the final game had ended (nearly four-and-one-half hours after it began), Jason Marquis and D-Backs pitcher Esmerling Vasquez and both managers were ejected — and Justin Upton was being considered for an Oscar for his writhing reaction to a one-that-got-away pitch from Jason Marquis in the 6th.
On Saturday, Nats’ skipper Jim Riggleman, who probably saw this coming, rejected any Arizona contention that the Nats were targeting Upton: “I feel terrible that the same guy gets hit three times,” Riggleman said. “But clearly, the first night when he got hit, that put the tying run to the plate. Obviously, we don’t want that to happen.” The Diamondbacks didn’t believe him, so they targeted Werth in game four and, when they couldn’t get him, they went after Danny Espinosa.
The nasty plunking by both teams did little to offset a near-catastrophic Nationals loss in the final set-to: the Anacostia Nine were up 4-0 in the eighth, but the bullpen (with the lone exception of Tyler Clippard) couldn’t hold the lead. The Diamondbacks scored three in the bottom of the 9th (the result of an almost unheard of spate of just-a-little-outside wildness from Drew Storen), but the Nationals held off the Snakes in the 10th before scoring five on reliever Joe Paterson in the 11th.
A near disaster, then, for sure — but reminiscent in its own way (it’s a stretch, but if you could hum the theme for “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” right here, that might help) of any classic “Spaghetti Western,” where the good guy gets the nasty punk and rides off into the sunset: or in the case of the Nationals, onto a charter flight for California.
As it turned out, the Nationals scored runs when they needed them: with Wilson Ramos’ big bat coming through for a homer in the 8th, Roger Bernadina going 3-6, Danny Espinosa at 2-4 and and Morse’s blast in the 11th. The victory gave the Nationals a needed split in Phoenix, and they now head to San Francisco, where they face Timmy and the San Francisco McCoveys.