The Washington Post

Despite loads of miscues, Nats manage to avert sweep



phoenix — In the face of many miscues, there was Keibert Ruiz, who slipped up at Chase Field on Sunday — just like many of his teammates — but reached base four times and slapped the gamewinnin­g single in the eighth inning. The Washington Nationals’ 4-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbac­ks, to avoid a three-game sweep, was not pretty. But as always, it was better than another loss.

“I wasn’t trying to do too much. I think that’s the key,” Ruiz said of his first multi-hit game since July 13. “Just got to keep going, keep having that approach, and good things are going to happen.”

Along the way, well before Ruiz unknotted the score, there was a

list of problems for the Nationals, none unique to their quick trip to the desert.

There was some failure to take advantage of poor pitching from the Diamondbac­ks (42-53): In the third, after Victor Robles led off with a single and César Hernández advanced him with a sacrifice bunt, Arizona starter Corbin Martin issued consecutiv­e walks to Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Nelson Cruz. But because Robles was thrown out at third on a double steal, the Nationals (32-65) didn’t score in the inning. Through three, Martin had tossed 23 strikes among 51 pitches and somehow hadn’t allowed a run.

There was confusion as to what happened between third and home in the sixth: Once Ruiz got to third on a single and a throwing error, he ran way down the line and was swiftly thrown out in a rundown. Ehire Adrianza had squared to bunt but never fully reached for a low-and-away change-up from Caleb Smith. So after the botched safety squeeze, Ruiz went from representi­ng the tying run to jogging to the dugout with his head bowed.

“It’s something to learn,” said Ruiz, a 24-year-old catcher in his first full major league season. “I have to wait for him to bunt, and that can’t happen.”

There was some inefficien­t pitching for Washington: Again, Erick Fedde failed to limit his pitch count early, needing 20 to get through a one-two-three second. Fedde lasted 42/ innings,

3 yielding seven hits, four walks and three earned runs on 99 pitches. He exited with two on and Washington trailing 3-1. Later, after the Nationals went ahead in the eighth, Steve Cishek loaded the bases with no outs, induced a shallow popout and was replaced by Kyle Finnegan, who escaped the jam with a double play and ultimately notched a five-out save.

“You know the situation, and so does the hitter, so it’s kind of that chess match there,” Finnegan said of using a sinker against Christian Walker to finish the eighth. “You want to make the right pitch, but you also don’t want to be hesitant. You want to stay convicted in throwing your best stuff, whether that will be the pitch that will get you out of the situation or the pitch that will just get that hitter out. It’s a balance, but I thought we matched up well for the double play.”

There were some more miscues in the field: After Alek Thomas singled against the shift in the first, the Nationals had no one covering third base. Fedde lingered by the mound. Third baseman Adrianza was a step slow in reading the situation. But even with little chance to throw out Josh Rojas, who was running from first to third, Robles tried to lead Adrianza to the bag. The decision let Thomas race from first to second.

Then in the fifth, Soto bobbled David Peralta’s double at the wall in right, an error that pushed Peralta to third. Then with none down in the sixth, Hernández fielded a routine grounder and threw softly to Bell, who couldn’t catch a low throw that put Geraldo Perdomo on first. Bell was charged with the error. Carl Edwards Jr. did strand Perdomo at second after replacing Jordan Weems.

But subpar defense still gifted 270 feet on the base paths. That has been a theme for Washington all year.

And then there was some bad luck for the Nationals at the plate: Two of their hardest-hit balls — 107.2 mph for Bell, 106.2 mph for Luis García — were caught by Thomas in center. Statcast gave Bell a 90 percent chance of a hit. García was granted a 66 percent chance at the single or double that never was. In the seventh, however, Washington caught a break when an odd call was overturned and Hernández tied the score on Bell’s double, which upon review did not leave the playing area.

Yet the Nationals’ issues go so far beyond the right and wrong sides of misfortune — or, for that matter, a single win or loss. Thanks to Finnegan and Ruiz, who knocked in Lane Thomas after his pinch-hit hustle double, they narrowly avoided their 18th loss in 20 games. Now the front-running Dodgers await in Los Angeles.

Here’s what else to know about the Nationals’ win:

Clowning around

Robles’s feud with Madison Bumgarner bled into Sunday — sort of. Before the game, cameras captured Robles wearing a tapedon clown nose in the Nationals’ dugout. On Saturday night, after Robles homered off Bumgarner and took a few seconds to admire his work, Bumgarner called the center fielder a “clown” with “no shame.” On Sunday, Robles singled in the third and made a couple of mistakes in the field.

“I didn’t see it. I heard about it. I will talk to him,” Manager Dave Martinez said. “. . . That’s not who we are, right? It happened; it’s done. I don’t want to see that kind of stuff.”

 ?? REBECCA NOBLE/GETTY IMAGES ?? Keibert Ruiz, left, hit the gamewinnin­g single, and Kyle Finnegan posted a five-out save.
REBECCA NOBLE/GETTY IMAGES Keibert Ruiz, left, hit the gamewinnin­g single, and Kyle Finnegan posted a five-out save.

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