Hanrahan Saves It — Barely

Nats rally, win third game

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Joel Hanrahan wasn't sharp.  He didn't have great command.  And he almost lost the game.  But it's not how you get there that counts; it's where you end up.

For the Nats, Hanrahan's last pitch -- a scorching grounder -- ended up in the second baseman's glove, and a soft toss to first ended the game. 

Bang!  Zoom!  That's two wins in a row for the hometown nine.

For Iowa Joe, it was his second save in as many nights, after blowing two in a row in this weekend's blown series against the Marlins.

With baseball, there's always a game coming up soon, and always a chance to redeem.  But this one, as many of his appearances are, was a challenge.

A slim one-run lead became even more nerve-wracking when he walked the first batter, before allowing a double.  With runners on second and third, visions of the Fish Slaughter danced through everyone's mind.

But Joel bore down.

A comebacker and a popup got two quick outs.

With two outs, pitching coach Randy St. Claire came out -- earning the wrath of Rob Dibble in the booth, who thought that the interlude would take Joel out of the moment, causing him to think too much, taking him out of his rhythm.

Apparently, the Dibster was right -- at least according to Nationals Journal.

St. Claire ordered Joel to throw a slider, because of the batter's aggressiveness.  But the closer had other ideas.  He trusted his fastball, and he trusted what he had gotten the batter to do in a previous game with that pitch.

"I felt pretty good with it," Hanrahan said. "I felt like if I made a good fastball down and away I could get a groundball to Anderson. Because over in Atlanta I faced [Escobar] and I did the same thing, but unfortunately we were holding someone on at second and it got by him. And this time, I almost looked at Hernandez and said, 'Hey, heads up, I think this ball is coming to you.' But I didn't want to give it away to the hitter that I was gonna throw him a fastball away. Luckily Hernandez stayed in there, and that ball was smoked right at him."

It worked in the end, even if it wasn't pretty.

Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishment.  He's glad he didn't have to field that grounder.

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