It has become an almost nightly occurrence for the Nationals to find themselves tied late in a game, whether it be the bottom of the ninth or in extra innings. Night after night after night, the Nationals have been put in position to have one pitch decide the outcome of an entire day. On Thursday the Nats were locked in a scoreless tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth. Another chance for a walk-off after four in the previous five days. Déjà vu once again. Denard Span came up second in the inning and as he’s done all year – but especially in recent weeks – he got the Nationals started with a one-out single. Then he stole second, his 27th steal of the season which established a new career-high. “I really don’t have the correct or the right words to say what the feeling is,” he said. “Other than saying that we just feel confident, that somehow, someway, we’re going to inch [out] a victory.” The next batter, Anthony Rendon, then put a ball in play to third baseman Jordan Pacheco. It was a tough angle for Pacheco and Rendon could tell off the bat. “I knew I had a chance. He wasn’t playing in on the grass like they were last night,” he said. What happened next, though, wasn’t as predictable. Pacheco’s throw to first bounced in front of Mark Trumbo and got past his glove. The ball skipped into the camera well behind first base and went out of play. Span, who was standing on third waiting for a signal from the umpires, was awarded home plate and another win for the Nationals, their 10th straight. That ties a team record and the longest streak in the majors this season. It was also their fifth walk-off win in six nights. The last team to accomplish that in such short time was the 1986 Astros who did it in five straight games. Span was once again the star in a Nationals win, but this was a first for him, at least as far as he can remember. “That’s what guys like me — speed guys — we dream of, getting stolen bases like that in the ninth inning and helping your team win and getting in scoring position like that,” he said. “That’s way more important than stealing two or three bags in first five innings. That was probably my first meaningful bag in my career right there, where I actually stole and put us in a position to win like that.” Span has talked recently about his improvement in stealing bases and how he has a goal of 30 this season. At 27 and with five weeks left, that milestone is certainly attainable. Span gives much of the credit to Nationals’ first base coach Tony Tarasco who helps him both before and during games with scouting reports on opposing pitchers and catchers. Once again, Tarasco played a role in this one. Here was the gameplan for Diamondbacks reliever Evan Marshall, who was on the mound at the time: “Tony gave me the rundown on the scouting report, basically, on [Marshall], and told me his times to the plate on a slidestep and his regular leg kick. And then he just told me, he left it in my hands, he told me ‘If you think you can get it, go get it.’ I walked off a little bit in between, as the guy was warming up, and I kind of just had to put on my alter ego and talk myself into it and get in that zone. And I was just ready and I was able to get a good jump.” An alter ego? Yeah, an alter ego. Span said one of his best friends made it up a while back. “Denard is the guy that is passive, the guy that is afraid to make a mistake,” Span said. “Then he says ‘Span is the guy that is a playmaker. Span is the smooth guy, the guy that would talk to a girl.’ It’s like the Urkel and the Stefan [from  Family Matters ]. I just had to walk off and kind of hype myself up for a second. And then I came back to first and was: ‘let’s go.’” Whoever it is on the basepaths this year, whether it’s ‘Denard’ or ‘Span,’ the guy is making a huge difference for the Nationals. Span is getting very close to 30 stolen bases and he knows it. “Hey man, take one bag at a time. What do we got, three more? Of course you know how bad I want to get it.” — Chase Hughes, CSNWashington.com

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Post info: By SnakeBitten on August 22nd, 2014
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Justin Turner called it the biggest home run of his career. Turner’s two-run shot in the eighth inning lifted the Dodgers to a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres on Thursday night, making a winner of Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw. “That’s one of the most exciting moments in my career,” said the 29-year-old Turner, who connected off Padres starter Tyson Ross for his fourth home run of the season. The National League West-leading Dodgers (72-57) took two of three in the series and beat the Padres (59-67) for the ninth time in their last 13 meetings, but they got a handful from Ross, who was locked into a pitcher’s duel with Kershaw for much of the contest until Turner delivered.

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The Arizona Diamondbacks proved they could hang with the NL East-leading Washington Nationals. The Nationals won their ninth straight game when pinch-hitter Anthony Rendon singled home Bryce Harper in the ninth inning Wednesday night for a 3-2 victory over the Diamondbacks. Arizona has lost five straight, the last three to Washington, two by a single run. Twice this series the Diamondbacks hit a game-tying home run in the final innings only to see the Nationals ultimately end up with the victory.

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(Adds Padres-Dodgers game) Aug 21 (The Sports Xchange) – Highlights of Wednesday’s Major League Baseball games. – - – Angels 8, Red Sox 3 The Los Angeles Angels beat the Boston Red Sox, but lost 13-game winner Garrett Richards to what appeared to be a serious knee injury. In winning their third straight game, the Angels wiped out a 3-0 deficit and scored five runs in the fifth inning while their bullpen shut down the Red Sox. The win, their fifth in six games on a road trip, moved Los Angeles (75-50) a game and a half ahead of the Oakland Athletics in the American League West.

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In this week’s Waiver Wired, D.J. Short discusses an opportunity in San Diego’s bullpen and welcomes Jacob deGrom back from the DL.

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This shouldn’t be happening, not like this. It’s not that the Nationals have won nine straight games. And it’s not that they’ve won in walk-off fashion four of the last five nights. It’s that they’ve won three of the last four nights after blowing a lead in the eighth or ninth inning. Really, who does this? “I mean, just absolutely epic,” Bryce Harper said. “That’s the best word I can put on it for you. It’s been incredible.” The events taking place each evening on South Capitol Street are beginning to defy explanation. Four nights after rallying from 3 runs down to beat the Pirates, three nights after watching Rafael Soriano melt down in the ninth before they came back to win in the 11th, two nights after watching Tyler Clippard blow his own ninth-inning lead before they again came back to win in the 11th, they did it yet again. Leading by two runs in the eighth, the Nationals saw Clippard surrender another game-tying homer, only to pick up their All-Star reliever by producing another winning rally in the ninth, beating the Diamondbacks 3-2 for their ninth consecutive victory. At this point, it sure looks like Matt Williams is drawing them up this way, going for maximum drama at the expense of everyone’s blood pressure. “No, no. Not even close,” the rookie manager insisted. “That’s not the way you draw them up. But they don’t stop fighting, that’s for sure.” The Nationals find themselves in this position — winners of nine straight, owners of a 7-game division lead, an NL-best 19 games over .500 — thanks to an elite rotation (starters have given up 10 total earned runs during these nine games) and an opportunistic lineup that thrives in pressure situations late (they’ve scored 27 runs from the sixth inning on during the streak). They got both Wednesday night, with Tanner Roark tossing seven scoreless innings despite some early command struggles and then Harper, Kevin Frandsen and Anthony Rendon combining to produce the winning rally in the bottom of the ninth. Harper ignited things with a base hit up the middle (his third of the game) after battling Arizona reliever Evan Marshall to a full count. “Great at-bat,” Williams said. After Wilson Ramos struck out on three pitches, Frandsen sent a sharp grounder up the middle, just past Aaron Hill ‘s diving attempt. Harper, seeing the ball trickle into shallow center field, never broke stride and wound up on third base without drawing a throw. That brought a familiar face to the plate in an unfamiliar role. Rendon was supposed to have the night off after 62 consecutive starts at either second or third base, but here was the 24-year-old being asked to pinch-hit for the first time this season, with the game on the line. Rendon had spent the evening shadowing Scott Hairston , watching how the veteran bench player prepared for the possibility of late action. “I followed Scotty throughout the whole game pretty much,” Rendon said. “I was like: ‘Alright, what do I do? Do I do this? Do I do that?’” Rendon also remembered advice he got earlier this summer from former teammate Greg Dobbs, a pinch-hitting specialist for many years. “He said to just get up like it;s your first at-bat of game. That’s what Dobbs told me,” Rendon said. “And that’s what I actually remembered from earlier in the year. So I was like: ‘Alright, I’m going to go up like it’s my first at-bat of the game and go up there and try to barrel the ball like I always do.’” Rendon took ball one from Marshall, then turned on the next pitch. The ball was scorched down the third-base line, giving Harper a leisurely stroll home with the winning run while everyone else mobbed Rendon near first base, impressed (but not surprised) by his latest offensive exploits. “A lot of guys around here will sing his praises all the time, because he is so levelheaded,” Frandsen said. “For him to finally get a day off today, you’d never know, because he was out there doing everything, coming off the bench. There’s one thing I think he was born to do, and it’s hit.” And there appears to be one thing these Nationals know how to do right now: Win ballgames, no matter how much drama it requires. “For me, it’s just a very good ethic that these guys have,” Williams said, who with one more win Thursday would have to make good on his pledge to break out his old Babe Ruth impersonation . “They believe in each other. They believe that we can stay in a game, that we can win a game, that we’re never out of a game. That’s a trait that you can’t force on folks. They get that amongst themselves in that clubhouse, and it’s enjoyable to watch. Sometimes it’s not a whole lot of fun, but it’s enjoyable to watch the way they go about it. So I’m proud of them.” — Mark Zuckerman, CSNWashington.com

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The reeling Detroit Tigers are starting to regain their footing at Tropicana Field, and Wednesday’s exceptional outing from Rick Porcello may be the one that gets them balanced again. The 25-year-old right-hander picked up his 14th victory by tossing a three-hit, complete game shutout in the Tigers 6-0 win .  The complete game is Porcello’s third of the season, which is significant for a few reasons. It’s the first time a Tigers pitcher has thrown three complete game shutouts in a season since Jeff Weaver did it in 2002. It also equals the number of shutouts thrown by all other Tigers’ starters dating back to Sept. 23rd, 2012. And perhaps most interesting, Porcello entered the season with zero shutouts in 149 career starts. This makes three in 24 starts this season. ‘Nine shutout innings. You literally can’t ask for anything more,” said Tiger manager Brad Ausmus. ”I felt pretty good from the get-go really,” Porcello said. ”Even the hit I gave up to Zobrist was a good pitch, and I felt pretty confident that if I kept making pitches like that I was going to get guys out and pitch deep into the game.” Offensively, Victor Martinez carried the weight with an RBI double in the first and a grand slam capping a five-run seventh. JEFF SAMARDZIJA ROUGHED UP BY METS: The Oakland A’s snapped a five-game losing streak on Tuesday and looked to begin a new winning streak with Jeff Samardzija taking on the Mets on Wednesday. Acquired from the Cubs in July, Samardzija entered the game unbeaten in his first five starts at his new home, the O.co Coliseum, but he wouldn’t make it to six after the Mets knocked him around in their 8-5 win .  Samardzjia was actually locked in early, tossing two perfect innings with two strikeouts to start the game. However, Eric Campbell greeted him with a home run in the third, and then Lucas Duda capped a five-run rally with a three-run homer to start New York’s barrage. After Oakland trimmed it to 5-2 in bottom half on RBI doubles by Coco Crisp and John Jaso, New York added two more in the fourth and chased Samardzija from the game. ”It’s just having trouble putting guys away,” Samardzija said. ”Probably as simple as that.” Strangely enough, Samardzija is now winless in 10 career appearances against the Mets. That includes four starts and six relief appearances. On the other side, Zack Wheeler moved to 6-0 since June 30 with 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball. His ERA over that span is a sparkling 2.12. NATIONALS RETURN TO WALKOFF WAYS: The Washington Nationals took a break from their walkoff dramatics on Tuesday, but picked it back up on Wednesday, defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2 on pinch-hitter Anthony Rendon’s first career game-winning hit . That gives Washington four walkoff wins in five games, but more importantly extends their overall winning streak to nine.  It’s interesting to note that Rendon was out of the starting lineup for the first time in 63 games. Coming off the bench cold to hit with the game on the line isn’t exactly his forte, but he continued showing his value to manager Matt Williams by contributing in a pinch. ”It was different to say the least, but it was awesome,” Rendon said of the pinch-hit. ”It’s gratifying for (the players), it’s exciting for them,” Williams said. ”It’s not a whole lot of fun in the dugout for the staff, but that’s OK.” Another guy who’s having fun after an extended  rough stretch is Bryce Harper. He started the rally with a single and advanced to third base on Kevin Frandsen’s single before scoring the winner and completing Washington’s three-game sweep. YANKEES DROPS ANOTHER HOME GAME TO ASTROS: A three-game home series with the Houston Astros seemed like a good place for the fading New York Yankees to get back on track. Two games into said series, the Yankees will simply hope to avoid a sweep on Thursday after falling to Houston, 5-2, on Wednesday night .    Scott Feldman, who shut out the Yankees over 6 2/3 innings on opening day, overwhelmed them again on Wednesday with 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball. He struck out seven to pick up his seventh victory. Robbie Grossman put Houston ahead for good with a two-run single in the seventh, and then Houston’s bullpen carried them to the franchise’s first series win at Yankee Stadium in four tries.  Yes, the Yankees are definitely fading and fading fast. But the Astros are no pushovers, even without stellar rookie George Springer available.  The team with the most runs since the All-Star break? Astros with 145. — Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) August 21, 2014 Houston can still have quite an impact on the postseason standings with several games left against the Angels, A’s and Mariners. More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports: – - – - – - – Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

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If you need saves off the waiver wire, you’ll need to hope for injuries – and then be there with the right guy.

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After being swept by the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend, the San Diego Padres were a welcomed sight for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Carl Crawford homered and drove in three runs, and the Dodgers rallied from a three-run deficit to defeat the San Diego Padres 8-6 at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night. Crawford, who went 3-for-3, scored three runs and stole a base, drilled a two-run shot off Padres reliever Alex Torres in the seventh inning to help the Dodgers (71-56) end a three-game slide. The Padres (58-66) lost for the eighth time in their past 11 meetings, including six of their last seven with Los Angeles.

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Struggling through a disappointing season, the Arizona Diamondbacks are expected to retain Kirk Gibson as manager next year, according to a report. The Diamondbacks have the fourth-worst record in baseball at 53-72 entering Tuesday’s games, but USA Today reported Tuesday that Tony La Russa, brought in three months ago to oversee baseball operations, is learning toward giving Gibson another year in the dugout. There was no indication about whether general manager Kevin Towers’ job might be in jeopardy. Gibson took over as Diamondbacks manager in 2010 and has a 343-351 overall record.

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