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Dodgers-Nationals took forever to start, then took forever to end

Wild pitch in 11th gives Nationals walk-off win

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The first pitch of Dodgers vs. Nationals was thrown four hours, 10 minutes later than originally planned, thanks to another rain delay in Washington DC. So it was only right, that it took three hours, 15 minutes to get to the last pitch, too.

The Dodgers rallied against the Nationals bullpen and even took the lead in extra innings. But a wild night ended on a wild pitch by Gus Varland in the 11th inning, giving the Nationals a 7-6 win on Saturday night.

Varland’s wild pitch came with two outs, which were recorded on a sacrifice bunt that Varland intentionally (and wisely) let go through his legs so third baseman Max Muncy could make the play, and then a ground ball to left fielder Chris Taylor with a five-man infield for a 7-4 putout at second base.

It was that kind of night.

That the game even made it to extra innings was a minor miracle, first for the Dodgers to come back late. But then in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and one out, a wild throw from drawn-in shortstop Kiké Hernández could have ended the game, but Will Smith came to the rescue with a first-baseman-like scoop despite wearing a catcher’s mitt.

The Dodgers managed only one run on three hits in six innings against starter Jake Irvin. That came in the first inning, with a single by David Peralta and Freddie Freeman’s 54th double of the season keying the frame.

Los Angeles found its way against the Nationals bullpen. J.D. Martinez doubled and scored in the seventh inning, his second straight game with an extra-base hit since getting activated off the injured list.

In the eighth, Muncy hit a two-run home run to get the Dodgers to within one. Muncy has homered in consecutive games.

Washington’s defense helped limit the Dodgers chances, with highlight-reel catches by all three of their outfielders. Jacob Young robbed Smith of a double at the center field wall in the sixth, Freeman’s bid for another double fell into the glove of a leaping Jake Alu at the left field wall in the eighth, and Alex Call in short right field made a diving catch of a potential bloop leadoff double by Hernández in the ninth.

After the Dodgers tied it, even second baseman Luis García got into the act, with a great diving stab and throw to rob Smith of a go-ahead single.

Kolten Wong, making his second start since joining the Dodgers on September 1, delivered the go-ahead RBI single with two outs in the 10th, but the Nationals scored the free runner off Ryan Brasier in the bottom of the inning to force in 11th inning.

The Dodgers scored in their first four innings against the Nationals bullpen, but couldn’t bring home the free runner in the 11th, setting up the Nationals triumph.

Going deeper

Bobby Miller reached a pair of milestones on Saturday but had a rough ending to his night. He struck out eight, his most for any of his 18 major league starts, and even pitched seven innings for the second game in a row. Dave Roberts has loosened the reins a bit on Miller, who very clearly will be highly featured in the Dodgers postseason rotation.

Saturday was the sixth straight start Miller has pitched at least six innings. Clayton Kershaw is the only other Dodgers pitcher to do so this year. In four of those six starts, Miller has pitched into the seventh. First, he got his toes wet a few times before completing seven innings last Sunday to beat the Braves.

Against the Nationals, Miller got the first two outs in the seventh when a new milestone emerged. With leadoff man C.J. Abrams at the plate, it marked the first time Miller has faced any part of a lineup the fourth time through. The growing pains came in the form of a walk to Abrams, who already had two hits off Miller earlier in the game. But then, Miller hung a slider to Lane Thomas, whose two-run home run widened the Nationals lead to three runs.

Miller completed the inning with his eighth strikeout, but the pain on his face in the dugout showed the frustration with this portion of the learning curve, spoiling what was otherwise encouraging start.

The first run came in the first inning when Jason Heyward, who’s made a number of stellar catches on do-or-die plays in right field this season, whiffed on a sliding attempt at Abrams’ leadoff hit. The ball got past Heyward and to the wall, retrieved by James Outman. By the time the dust settled, Abrams was on third base on a play that was scored a triple.

Miller allowed nothing else until the fifth, when he had the type of inning that spiraled out of control in a few starts in June. He walked Ildemaro Vargas after a brief staredown to open the frame, then allowed two singles, one a bunt hit, two stolen bases. Miller limited the damage to two runs in the 21-pitch frame, thanks in large part to Heyward tracking down a 103.7-mph drive by Dominic Smith in deep right field with the bases loaded. Instead of clearing the bases, it was simply a sacrifice fly and the second out of the inning.

Saturday particulars

Home runs: Max Muncy (34); Lane Thomas (24)

WP — Andrés Machado (4-1): IP, 1 hit, 1 strikeout

LP — Gus Varland (1-1): ⅔ IP, 1 unearned run, 1 walk, 1 wild pitch

Up next

After two days of rain delays, totaling five hours and 44 minutes in all, the Dodgers and Nationals will finish things up on Sunday afternoon, or morning for some of us (10:35 a.m. PT, SportsNet LA). Weather permitting, of course.