OAKLAND, Calif. — The National League’s top team showed it can win American League-style slugfest, too.
Ryan Zimmerman hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the eighth inning, and the Washington Nationals held off the Oakland Athletics 11-10 on Sunday.
Matt Wieters and Michael Taylor added back-to-back homers off Frankie Montas during Washington’s five-run ninth, helping the NL East leaders improve to 5-1 on their nine-game West Coast trip.
But the Nationals (35-20) nearly blew an 11-4 lead in the ninth, highlighting their continued trouble with closing out games. Koda Glover allowed the first five batters to reach before he was replaced by Shawn Kelley, who surrendered a grand slam by Matt Joyce with one out. Kelley then retired the next two batters for his fourth save in six tries.
“That’s American League baseball,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “A lead is never safe because they’re used to coming back and having big innings because the offensive clubs hit the ball out of the ballpark. We didn’t walk guys to get to that situation, they hit us.”
Khris Davis had three hits and two RBIs for Oakland, including his 17th homer. Sonny Gray pitched seven effective innings, allowing three runs and four hits.
“Baseball’s a crazy sport, so things like that happen and at the end of the day it’s still a win,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve seen crazier things happen.”
The Athletics (24-32) have dropped seven of nine.
Gray was working with a 1-0 lead before Washington scored three times in the sixth. Trea Turner hit a two-run triple and scored on Brian Goodwin’s sacrifice fly.
“With that lineup, if you put guys on base, if you give guys free passes, they will do some damage,” Gray said. “You have to stay on top of your game with every hitter. With the exception of three batters, I thought it was an OK start.”
The Athletics tied it at 3 on Davis’ drive in the seventh, but the Nationals went ahead to stay in the eighth. Zimmerman drove a 3-1 changeup from Ryan Madsen (1-4) over the wall in left for his team-leading 16th homer.
Washington right-hander Tanner Roark (6-2) allowed four runs and five hits in 7 2/3 innings in his longest start of the year.
“It shows some grit,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of his team’s comeback. “It leaves a better feeling in a game that looks like a blowout and the next thing you know we’re in it to the last at-bat.”
Oakland called up first base/outfield prospect Matt Olson from Triple-A Nashville and sent down right-hander Daniel Mengden.
Nationals: Wieters was hit by the barrel of a splintered bat while in the on-deck circle during Adam Lind’s at-bat in the top of the fifth inning. The bat struck Wieters just below his left knee but he stayed in the game. . OF Jayson Werth got the day off after fouling a ball off his toe on Saturday. X-rays were negative but he was on crutches and wearing a walking boot. Werth fouled a ball off his same toe in spring training. “Right now it’s not looking good,” Baker said.
Athletics: RHP Jesse Hahn, on the disabled list with a right triceps strain, will start Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. . LHP Sean Doolittle (left shoulder strain) will pitch on Monday for the second time on a rehab assignment with Class A Stockton.
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (4-1, 3.03 ERA) gets the ball on Monday for the opener of a three-game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA in five career starts against Los Angeles.
Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 3.91 ERA) pitches on Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays. He is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in his last three starts.
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