Ross Detwiler pitched well enough to win, allowing three runs over six innings on just five hits, striking out four. But the Nationals generated only three hits, including a two-run homer by Adam LaRoche, their offensive savior. The performance served as the latest reminder why the Nationals summoned Harper as both a salve and a run-scoring boost.
“Kind of discouraging,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “We had one more run than last night, but we still had three hits.”
The Nationals stayed in the game in the eighth inning because of a fantastic relay. With two outs and the Dodgers’ Tony Gwynn Jr. on first base, Juan Uribe rocketed a line drive to the right field corner. As Mark DeRosa picked up the ball with his bare hand, Gywnn sped around third. DeRosa ripped a throw to Espinosa, who pivoted and unleashed one of the best infield arms in baseball. The bullet of a one-hop throw skipped on the grass like a stone over water. Gywnn slid into home headfirst, but Flores blocked the plate with his right foot, and the inning ended.
Espinosa nearly tied it in the ninth, blasting a line down the right field line off Dodgers closer Kanley Jansen. It bounded off the top of the fence and into the seats hugging the foul pole. The park hushed. First base umpire Mark Carlson raised his hands, foul.
“I couldn’t really tell,” Espinosa said. “I knew the ball was hooking, but I couldn’t tell.”
A few Nationals in the dugout motioned for a replay review. If Manager Davey Johnson and the coaching asked for one, the umpires would have taken a look. The Nationals did not make the request. “It’s pretty easy to tell with a big, fat pole,” Johnson said. “That’s not a skinny pole. He was in perfect position.”
If the Nationals did ask for the review, it probably would not have mattered. The ball appeared to land maybe a half-foot to the right of the pole, but perhaps only after a fan interfered. Even after Espinosa watched the tape, he couldn’t draw a conclusion.
“Tough to tell,” Espinosa said. “It looked like a fan reached in front of the pole. It might have hit his hand and deflected back. I’m not 100 percent sure. It was close. No one could really tell.”
Against Detwiler, Kemp and Ethier went 4 for 5. The other seven Dodgers in the lineup went 1 for 15. Kemp and Ethier scored or drove in every Dodgers run, starting in the first inning.