Nationals blow late lead
WASHINGTON—In the first major-league match-up featuring twentysomething stars Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, it was a guy born two decades earlier, Raul Ibanez, who came through with the biggest hit.
And after delivering a tie-breaking three-run double as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning to help Trout’s L.A. Angels beat Harper’s Washington Nationals 4-2 last night, the 41-year-old Ibanez was showered with a particular nickname when he returned to the dugout.
Ibanez might be, um, much more experienced than many of his teammates, but he happens to be leading the Angels this season with 15 RBIs.
“These guys make me feel young,” Ibanez said about his teammates with the Angels—his fifth club in a 19-year career.
He came through on a night that Trout and Harper went a combined 2-for-8 with zero runs or RBIs while Albert Pujols went 0-for-5, staying on 498 homers.
The 22-year-old Trout, the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year and a two-time MVP runner-up, was 2-for-5 with a pair of singles.
The 21-year-old Harper, the 2012 NL rookie honoree, was 0-for-3 with a walk.
The two outfielders became pals while teammates in the Arizona Fall League in 2011 and chatted with each other before the game.
Neither recent first-round pick in the amateur draft—Trout was No. 25 overall in 2009, Harper was No. 1 a year later—was much of a factor once play began, though.
Instead, all eyes were on Ibanez—taken in the 36th round back in 1992.
“He’s been around the block,” noted Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia.
Fernando Salas (1-0) earned the win with a hitless seventh.
Joe Smith worked the eighth before Ernesto Frieri pitched the ninth to earn his second save—despite allowing Desmond’s lead-off homer.
Frieri struck out Denard Span with a man on second to end it.
The Nationals led 1-0 entering the eighth, when they brought in reliever Tyler Clippard (1-2).
Pujols led off and reached on the first of shortstop Ian Desmond’s two errors in the inning.
Erick Aybar’s third hit of the night later scored Pujols to even it.
After Clippard walked Chris Iannetta to load the bases, the lefty-hitting Ibanez came up.
“Everybody likes being up in that spot,” said Ibanez, the second-oldest player in the majors behind Cleveland’s Jason Giambi (43).
“That’s what you play for, that’s what you compete for—to try to be up in that spot—since you were a kid in the backyard playing.”
Nationals’ manager Matt Williams did not have a lefty reliever ready to go, in anticipation of Ibanez being used there, because he wanted Clippard to get through that inning.
“Clip’s been the eighth-inning guy here for a long time,” Williams noted. “Certainly [his] track record indicates that he’s good against lefties.
“So I want to stay with him there.”
Ibanez, without a hit in his previous 11 at-bats, connected on a change-up—Clippard’s specialty.
“It is a pitch I’m getting hurt on,” Clippard conceded, and wondered aloud about whether he’s tipping his pitches to opponents.
In AL action yesterday, Baltimore topped Boston 7-6, Cleveland edged Kansas City 4-3, Chicago White Sox beat Detroit 3-1, Houston dumped Seattle 7-2, and Texas nipped Oakland 4-3.
Over in the NL, Pittsburgh shaded Cincinnati 6-5, New York blanked St. Louis 2-0, Atlanta doubled Miami 4-2, Chicago beat Arizona 5-1, Milwaukee edged San Diego 4-3, Colorado downed San Francisco 8-2, and Philadelphia dumped L.A. 7-0.