A run would have given the Nationals a lead, one they’d only have to hold for half an inning more to beat the New York Yankees and force a Sunday rubber match. But as Moore slid into home head-first, his left arm outstretched to tag the plate, Yankees right fielder Dewayne Wise made a perfect throw. Catcher Russell Martin applied the tag. Home plate umpire Tim Timmons signaled Moore was out. Moore lay face down in the dirt in disbelief.
“It’s definitely [tough],” Moore said. “I thought I got in there, but you know, I haven’t seen the replay yet. It’s just unfortunate it didn’t go our way.”
“It’s more times than not the guy scores on a play at the plate,” LaRoche said. “It takes a lot of things to go right to get him out. … Bang-bang play, so yeah, I’m running into second thinking we’ve got a run out of it.”
The play ended the last real threat either team had until the 13th. As the innings wore on, the bullpens and benches emptied, 12 of the next 13 Nationals hitters failed to reach base. The Nationals‘ bullpen held the Yankees hitless through the next five innings. But, Brad Lidge, the sixth man to take the mound for Washington, wore the game-winner.
Lidge, who has struggled since his hasty return from the disabled list last weekend, walked two and allowed three runs Friday night. The results didn’t vary much on Saturday. With runners at the corners and one out, first baseman Mark Teixeira doubled to clear the bases. It was the knockout punch.
“We had our chances,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “Just couldn’t seem to deliver.”
Jordan Zimmermann left the game after the sixth inning, and the bullpen combined for seven hitless frames to follow. Throughout the game, though, the Nationals struggled defensively. In the fourth inning — during which Johnson said his team gave the Yankees five outs — an error by shortstop Ian Desmond scored a run to chip into what was a two-run Nationals lead.
Two innings later, a pair of runs gave New York a 3-2 lead, one that seemed likely to stick as Andy Pettitte baffled the Nationals‘ hitters for most of the afternoon.
However, Desmond had something different in mind.
In attempt to let his shortstop nurse some left oblique soreness, Johnson said before the game that Desmond might get a day off. Determined to play through it, Desmond took the field anyway.
He struggled to get anything going in his first three at-bats, grounding out on each one. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, though, Desmond worked the count to 2-2 on right-hander Cory Wade and then took his hack. He sent the fastball flying over the left field wall for the game-tying home run.
“My first three at-bats I felt great. And then, obviously nothing to show for it,” he said. “Sitting around, it felt like [my oblique] was starting to tighten up a little bit. I don’t know. I hit the home run there and I wondered if there was anything there at all.”
Moore followed Desmond’s solo homer with a walk and a steal, and LaRoche sent his pinch-hit single to right field.
In a quiet postgame clubhouse, the Nationals couldn’t help but acknowledge the missed opportunities. Had things gone just differently, it could’ve been over in the eighth. It wasn’t worth the what-ifs.
“It was obviously a close play,” Desmond said. “We had other opportunities to win that ball game. Obviously we would have liked that, but life goes on.”