WASHINGTON – Any place with as many delays as Nationals Park this weekend should come under scrutiny from the Federal Aviation Agency.
Two days into this series, the Dodgers and Washington Nationals have spent a total of six hours and 23 minutes playing baseball – and five hours, 44 minutes waiting out rain delays each night. More rain is expected Sunday.
“The delay was long,” Dodgers rookie James Outman said, short but accurate in his recap.
“We kind of just watched football,” Dodgers third baseman Max Muncy said. “Every hour, we were told we were getting another update. If you know it’s going to be a couple hours, you can go take a nap, eat, whatever. But when you don’t know – do you eat? Do you not eat? Do you hit in the cage or do you wait?”
Fans hunkered down in stairwells Saturday to wait out the rain or jammed into the Budweiser Brew House in center field, one of the few covered areas in the park proper. The afternoon game became a night game while time seemed to stand still in the stadium.
“It was I think every man for himself right there,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of passing the time. “There was probably too much eating going on. There might have been some sleeping. Some chatter. Some guys getting antsy and taking swings and trying to get ready.
“There was a lot of uncertainty as far as when we were going to start this game. But we were pretty sure we were gonna play it tonight.”
The fans who did stay were vocally Dodger supporters – but so scattered that a loud “thump” could be heard throughout the park when Nationals centerfielder Jacob Young crashed into the wall to catch Will Smith’s sixth-inning drive.
If fans had waited around through the four-hour, 10-minute rain delay hoping for a repeat of Friday night’s rain-delay offer of a 40-percent discount on chicken tenders and hot dogs, they were instead rewarded with extra innings. The Dodgers came back from three runs down to extend the game, but lost 7-6 in the 11th on a run-scoring wild pitch.
“It sucks to lose. It doesn’t feel good, certainly the way we lost the game,” Roberts said. “But I thought there was a lot of good things, whether it be big at-bats, some defensive plays, some pitches that were made. Yeah, there was a lot of good things going on still, too.”
Six and a half hours after the original scheduled start time, the Dodgers went into the ninth inning down, 5-4, after Max Muncy’s two-run homer in the eighth.
With one out, Outman worked an 11-pitch walk, fouling off five consecutive full-count pitches before getting ball four. Kolten Wong followed and fell behind 0-and-2 while Outman stole second and went to third on a wild throw. Wong lashed a single through the right side of the infield to tie the game.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers escaped a bases-loaded situation when Smith made an outstanding pick of Kike’ Hernandez’s throw in the dirt, saving the force play for the second out of the inning.
In the top of the 10th, Hernandez was down 0-and-2 with two outs when he dropped a single into right field, driving in the go-ahead run. But the Nationals tied it immediately when Keibert Ruiz led off the bottom of the 10th with an RBI single, cashing in the free runner for the first run charged to Ryan Brasier since August 6 (11 1/3 scoreless innings ago).
The Dodgers couldn’t cash in the free runner in the top of the 11th and were nearly out of danger in the bottom of the inning thanks in part to a five-man infield. But Gus Varland’s wild pitch to Carter Kieboom brought in the winning run as midnight neared.
The delayed start was a particular challenge for Dodgers rookie right-hander Bobby Miller and he was up to it. He completed seven innings for the second consecutive start and struck out a career-high eight batters. But the Nationals got to him for multiple runs in two innings including a two-run home run by Lane Thomas in the seventh inning that put the Nationals up 5-2 – and stuck in Miller’s craw.
“It was a good game. Just a couple really unacceptable pitches in there,” Miller said. “A couple bad sliders. I didn’t really throw many of them. I was confident throwing the slider at the end but I just threw my worst one and it turned out to be a homer. Just an unacceptable pitch.
“Seven innings was good. I always preach that – going really far in the game to help the bullpen out. Unfortunately, it was extra innings. But if I didn’t make that one bad pitch, the slider, I think we win the game.”
The highlight of Miller’s night was the second through fourth innings when he retired nine of 10 Nationals batters, six on strikeouts. Miller threw 18 curveballs in the first four innings and got the Nats to either take it for a strike or swing and miss a combined 10 times.
Roberts acknowledged that sticking with Miller through seven innings for a second consecutive start was a way to test the young right-hander in advance of a likely key role in October.
“Absolutely,” Roberts said. “It’s hard to simulate what he’s going to be going through. So as best we can do, if we’re not going to put him in harm’s way, then I think it’s a good thing. These are good experiences, opportunities for him to kind of see how he responds.”