Nationals 9, White Sox 5 (14 innings): Defense still hates Thornton

This game was so long, it had five different scapegoat changes. Tying the game three times from the ninth inning on will do that.

No. 1: Brian Bruney/Ozzie Guillen. In the top of the eighth, Chris Sale was working on pitching around a bunt single by Roger Bernadina. He had two outs with a runner on third, and Mike Morse coming to the plate. Because of uberscary lefty-righty matchup, Guillen went to Brian Bruney. And because Bruney is a journeyman reliever who can't stay out of Triple-A, Morse hit a two-run homer to give the Nats a 2-0 lead.

Bruney then allowed a third run in the ninth for good measure, which meant that Mark Teahen's pinch-hit, three-run homer in the ninth merely tied the game.

No. 2: Sergio Santos. Santos had his nasty slider working, and he set down Ryan Zimmerman without much of a fight. Laynce Nix also swung and missed on his slider. So Santos went to the changeup**, hung it, and Nix launched it into the right-field seats to give Washington a 4-3 lead in the 10th.

(**Apparently it was a slider. A slider that looked like a 90 mph changeup.)

Santos then appeared to be on the verge of losing it, putting runners on the corners with one out. He made matters worse by throwing to second on a chopper to the mound. It wasn't in time, but Ramirez picked it and made a throw from his knees to get the second out, while Morse failed to break for home.

 

No. 3: Brent Lillibridge. With one out in the bottom of the 10th, Paul Konerko walked, Adam Dunn doubled and Alex Rios was intentionally walked. Todd Coffey then gave the Sox a gift run with a wild pitch to score pinch-running Omar Vizquel to re-tie the game at 4. He IBB'd A.J. Pierzynski to re-load the bases, and up came Brent Lillibridge. He overswung on a hanging changeup, took a hittable fastball, and then swung at a slider way out of the zone. Teahen couldn't duplicate his heroic effort, and the game marched deeper into the night.

No. 4: Jesse Crain. In his second inning of work, he was en route to working around a leadoff single with back-to-back strikeouts. But Wilson Ramos singled Nix to third, and Brian Bixler then smoked a double over Lillibridge's head in right. Ramos seemed to pull up lame, which kept it a one-run game. That turned out to be huge after Alex Rios ran down Ian Desmond's somewhat deep flyball to left-center.

No. 5: Mike Estabrook. The first-base umpire erroneously ruled Bixler safe on a swinging nubber to third, which should've been the third out of the 14th inning. But as far as blown calls go, it seemed very close to the "acceptable" end of the spectrum. I could only tell on HD super slo-mo, and even Hawk Harrelson couldn't get terribly angry about it, especially after Thornton got a weak grounder to short, setting up...

No. 6: Alexei Ramirez: Bixler stole second uncontested, but it didn't seem to matter when Desmond hit one Ramirez's way. Ramirez charged, gloved it, and then overestimated Desmond's speed. He rushed the throw, Teahen (playing first) couldn't dig it out, and Bixler came around to score the go-ahead run. I don't think Konerko could've made the scoop, based on the angle of the hop.

Ozzie Guillen brought it full-circle with another confusing move based on the fear of the lefty-righty. In the 13th inning, Thornton froze Jayson Werth with a fastball to lead off the inning, but lefty Roger Bernadina battled Thornton tough with two strikes against him and ended up reaching on an infield single. It turned into a double when Vizquel made an ill-advised throw from short right field, and the throw hit Bernadina after he ran through the bag. Thornton pitched around that error (did I mention the defense hates him?).

So Werth came to the plate in the 14th, 1-for-7 on the night with four strikeouts, including one by Thornton. Guillen calls for the intentional walk, bringing Bernadina to the plate. Bernadina was 3-for-7, including a single off Thornton, and he added another one when he dropped a single to center to score Desmond. One more Ryan Zimmerman double later, and the Nationals finally buried the Sox.

Bernadina turned out to be the true winner of this game. Along with his offensive heroics, he changed the game with his glove when he took away a two-run homer from Adam Dunn in the sixth inning.

On the losing side of the emotional ledger:

Edwin Jackson: He showed the Nationals what they were missing with eight strikeouts over seven shutout innings. He locked horns with Washington's best starter, Jordan Zimmermann, and battled him to a draw. Neither pitcher received anything to show for it.

Teahen: The three-run homer lost its glow when he failed to deliver a two-out hit after Lillibridge's bases-loaded strikeout, and the tough scoop on Ramirez's game-changing throwing error.

The bullpen: All six relievers were used, and Crain (41) and Thornton (50) set season-high pitch counts in the process. Phil Humber was warm in the bullpen at the end of the game, but Guillen didn't see much of a reason to use him. On the plus side, the Sox bullpen had three fewer blown saves than the Washington relief corps tonight.

Sale (nine pitches) and Will Ohman (two) will be first in line in game two of this series.

Record: 37-40 | Box score | Play-by-play

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