WASHINGTON – Washington tied the game on a reviewed call in the eighth inning, Joey Meneses followed with a go-ahead RBI single two batters later, and the Nationals defeated the Cleveland Guardians 7-6 on Sunday to avert a three-game sweep.
Jeimer Candelario and Luis García homered for Washington, which won at home for only the second time in nine tries this season. The Nationals had lost four in a row by a combined six runs.
“That could turn your month around, turn the season around just to get the momentum in your favor and say ‘Hey, boys, we can win these close games,’” left fielder Stone Garrett said.
Steven Kwan drove in two runs for the Guardians, who fell to 7-3 on the road.
In the eighth, plate umpire Ryan Blakney initially called Garrett out at home while tagging on Lane Thomas‘ one-out fly to center, but replay officials ruled catcher Mike Zunino was blocking the plate and allowed the run to count and tie it at 6.
“It was a close call, but there was no doubt I was going to challenge the whole play,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “It was that close. We had to take a chance.”
Garrett said he knew Zunino was blocking the plate as he ran home from third and tried to slide around the catcher’s foot rather than collide with Zunino.
“I understand why they do it, (but) I still think it puts the catcher in a tough spot because the game’s going fast,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “Z’s contention is that as soon as he saw the hop, he maneuvers to make the play. I really understand that. I don’t think when you slow it down, that is fair to the player.”
Trevor Stephan relieved Nick Sandlin (1-1) after the replay ruling and walked Dominic Smith. Meneses then poked a single to right to drive in CJ Abrams.
Mason Thompson (1-1) pitched a scoreless eighth, and Kyle Finnegan handled the ninth for his third save.
Cleveland scored four runs in the third against Washington starter Patrick Corbin, starting with consecutive doubles and then Myles Straw reaching on an Abrams error. Kwan followed with an RBI single, and Straw came around when catcher Keibert Ruiz‘s attempt to pick him off third got past Candelario. Former National Josh Bell‘s two-out RBI double scored Kwan.
Corbin allowed four runs, two of them earned, in six innings.
The Guardians extended their lead to 6-3 in the seventh with two runs off Hobie Harris. García’s two-run blast off Tim Herrin in the bottom of the inning got Washington back within one. It was the first time in five games the Nationals scored after the fourth inning.
“We jump out and get the lead, we’ve got to tack on some runs late in games,” Martinez said. “They did that today.”
Washington opened the scoring in the first inning on Candelario’s RBI single. Thomas added an two-out RBI double in the second, and Candelario led off the third with his third homer, a drive just inside the right-field foul pole that was part of a four-hit day.
Cleveland starter Shane Bieber allowed three runs and struck out four in six innings.
Guardians: Francona said SS Amed Rosario was out of the lineup because of a balky back and is day to day.
Guardians: Cleveland’s road trip continues Monday in Detroit. RHP Hunter Gaddis (0-1, 8.53 ERA) faces the Tigers for the first time in his career.
Nationals: Washington is off Monday. RHP Josiah Gray (0-3, 4.32) starts Tuesday when Baltimore arrives for a two-game series.