WASHINGTON — Ryan Zimmerman delivered a two-run double after Bryce Harper was intentionally walked in the fourth inning, and the Washington Nationals beat the Chicago White Sox 7-4 on a windy Thursday night to cap a three-game sweep.
Dan Haren (1-1) got the win despite allowing 10 hits in five innings.
With the score tied at 3 in the fourth, Haren helped himself by doubling off Dylan Axelrod (0-1) and eventually scoring on a wild pitch with two outs. Chicago then put Harper on base on purpose, but the move didn’t work: Cleanup hitter Zimmerman lined a double to right on Axelrod’s 103rd — and final — pitch of the evening.
That put Washington ahead 6-3, and relievers Ryan Mattheus, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano made it hold up.
After Harper drove in an insurance run in the eighth, Soriano pitched the ninth for his fifth save in six chances, and third this series.
Washington, 6-0 at home and 7-2 overall, opens a three-game set Friday against visiting NL East rival Atlanta. The Braves are on a six-game winning streak and own a major league-best 8-1 record. It’s their best start since opening 13-1 in 1994.
On Thursday, swirling air carried napkins and other debris from the stands onto the grass, pushed batted balls away from the fences, and turned some otherwise routine plays into adventures for fielders. Following a couple of days in the 80s, the temperature dipped into the 50s.
And after hitting 11 homers in their previous four games, the Nationals turned to some small ball.
In the first inning, Jayson Werth singled to cap a 10-pitch at-bat, stole second and moved to third when catcher Tyler Flowers’ errant throw went into the outfield. Adam LaRoche made it 1-0 with a single on Axelrod’s 33rd pitch. He would need 40 just to get the first three outs.
In the third, Denard Span singled, stole second, took third on Werth’s flyout and came home on Harper’s single up the middle. After consecutive walks, Ian Desmond’s sacrifice fly made it 3-1.
Chicago pulled even in the fourth. With a man on, Axelrod popped up a bunt that first baseman LaRoche couldn’t quite reach, and the ball bounced by for an infield single. Alejandro De Aza and Jeff Keppinger hit RBI singles — ending Chicago’s 0-for-10 stretch with runners in scoring position over two games.
It didn’t stay tied long. Haren got things started by smacking the ball to right-center and ambling into second with a stand-up double. Werth singled, before Axelrod bounced a pitch near Harper’s feet. He lifted his back shoe, the left one, just as the ball skipped past. Chicago manager Robin Ventura came out to talk to the plate umpire — perhaps hoping the ball hit Harper’s shoe after touching the dirt — but the call stood.
Then came the game’s fulcrum. The right-handed Axelrod gave the lefty-swinging Harper a free pass, instead dealing with the right-handed Zimmerman, who walked in his first two plate appearances. With the count full, Zimmerman doubled, giving him at least one RBI in each game of the series.
Haren threw 101 pitches and allowed three runs. Shaky, but far more effective than his Nationals debut after signing a $13 million, one-year contract as a free agent. In that game, he allowed four homers in four innings during a 15-0 loss at Cincinnati, the Nationals’ biggest defeat since they brought baseball back to Washington in 2005.
NOTES: Chicago 2B Gordon Beckham needs surgery for a broken bone in his left wrist and is expected to miss six weeks. … White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper is still hospitalized with an intestinal illness and will skip the rest of the club’s 10-game road trip. … Nationals LHP Ross Detwiler starts Friday against Braves RHP Julio Teheran. … White Sox LHP Jose Quintana starts against Indians RHP Justin Masterson on Friday. … Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, acquitting himself much better than the other time he had the honor. Last time, he spiked his attempt straight into the ground, prompting his “catcher” that day, Nationals reliever Drew Storen, to joke Wednesday: “Give me a sky hook.” With LHP Gio Gonzalez receiving this time, Wall put the ball in the glove with a soft lob.
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