It was a beautiful day for baseball in the nation’s capital: 70 degrees and 53 percent humidity. The fans filling the ballpark were hoping to see the Nationals (11-14) salvage the last game of the series against the Padres (16-111) — or perhaps they were just there for a Sunday family outing.2 Certainly the Nationals team on the field was not at full strength: Ryan Zimmerman and Trea Turner were on the Injured List, and although Anthony Rendon was not on the IL, he had been out of the lineup for several games after being hit by a pitch. When Zimmerman went on the IL the day before, the Nationals had elected to call up pitcher Erick Fedde3 instead of another position player — a decision that would have consequences in this game.
The Padres swung at everything Jeremy Hellickson (2-0, 4.34 ERA) had to offer. Fernando Tatís Jr. hit the first pitch to the back of the warning track: Juan Soto caught it with his glove against the fence. Greg Garcia hit the 11th homer of his five-year career into the Nationals bullpen. Manny Machado hit the next pitch well but it was caught just short of the warning track. Wil Myers popped out to shortstop Carter Kieboom but the Padres were leading, 1-0.
Joey Lucchesi (3-2,4.33 ERA)4 was pitching for the Padres. Brian Dozier was credited with a one-out single when Tatís bobbled his grounder. Machado, playing near the shortstop position, ran a country mile to catch Soto’s foul pop well into foul territory. Howie Kendrick singled to put two on but Matt Adams grounded out to first.
The Padres added to their lead in the second. Eric Hosmer doubled off the wall in center and scored on Hunter Renfroe’s single. Renfroe stole second but was left there when Austin Hedges struck out, Manuel Margot popped out, and Lucchesi struck out.
The Padres continued their hitting onslaught in the third. Tatís hit the ball to the left side and beat the throw to first. Garcia bounced to Dozier, who bobbled the ball for his first error of the year. Machado’s base hit up the middle scored Tatís. After Myers struck out, Hosmer’s three-run homer put the Padres up 6-0. Renfroe and Hedges grounded out.
The Nationals started their comeback in the bottom of the third. After Hellickson struck out, Victor Robles dived into first, his hand just beating Hosmer’s foot to the bag. He was called out but replay determined that he was safe. After Dozier singled, Soto’s three-run homer into the batter’s eye brought the crowd to its feet and sliced the deficit in half: 6-3, Padres. Kendrick grounded toward first. Hosmer’s throw to Lucchesi covering first missed badly: The ball and Padres catcher Hedges ended up in the Nationals dugout. Soto caught Hedges at the bottom of the dugout steps. Hedges did not catch the ball, so Kendrick easily took second. After Adams’s groundout, Kendrick scored on Suzuki’s single. Kieboom singled and Taylor walked to load the bases but pinch-hitter Adam Eaton (the 10th batter of the inning) struck out.
Fedde made his first big-league appearance of 2019,5 taking over from Hellickson in the fourth. Tatís put his speed to good use, legging out a two-out single and stealing second. Garcia lined out with the Padres still leading 6-4.
Robles homered to lead off the fourth, bouncing it off the visitors bullpen wall just out of Myers’ reach. After Kendrick hit a two-out single, Adams struck out, but the Nationals had pulled closer: 6-5, Padres.
Fedde worked a one-two-three top of the fifth on nine pitches.
Lucchesi was finished after four innings, so Adam Warren took over the pitching for San Diego. After Suzuki flied out, Kieboom hit the ninth pitch of the at-bat into the left-field stands to tie the game, much to the delight of his family and the rest of the 30,186 fans. The home run set a record: Never before had there been three homers by under-22-year-olds in the same game (Soto was 20, Kieboom and Robles were 21).6 Taylor looked at strike three again and Fedde went down swinging.
In the top of the sixth, Renfroe reached base on what could have been scored an error by Kieboom (late throw) or Adams (missed the ball), but he was credited with a hit. It didn’t matter: He was erased on a double play, followed by a Margot groundout for another quick inning for Fedde.
Luis Perdomo was the next Padres reliever, in the bottom of the sixth. Soto hit a two-out fly to left. Myers just missed the ball, rolling over it before corralling it and throwing in to second. Soto stole second and Kendrick walked, but Adams flied out to leave them on base.
Pinch-hitter Ty France preserved his cool .667 BA7 by working a walk to open the seventh. He was erased when Tatís grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. Garcia’s strikeout finished Fedde’s impressive relief outing: four innings pitched, two hits, no runs.
Brad Wieck was the next Padre out of the pen, in the seventh. Suzuki singled, Kieboom earned his first major-league walk. Taylor looked at strike three for the third time. Nationals manager Davey Martinez sent in Yan Gomes (the Nationals’ other catcher) to pinch-hit for Fedde, leaving only Wilmer Difo on the bench. Wieck struck out Gomes; the Padres’ next reliever, Trey Wingenter, struck out Robles.
Kyle Barraclough pitched the top of the eighth, allowing only a single to Hosmer. Wingenter allowed a leadoff walk in the bottom of the eighth, but the runner was erased on a double play. Kendrick struck out yet reached first on the catcher’s error, but Adams flied out to leave him there.
The Padres came oh-so-close to untying the game in the ninth. Joe Ross, who pitched a scoreless inning the day before, faced the bottom of the Padres’ order. Hedges swung at three pitches, not connecting with any of them. Margot grounded out. After Franmil Reyes singled to center, he was replaced by pinch-runner Ian Kinsler, leaving the Padres’ backup catcher as their only bench player. Tatís rolled one to center: Kinsler rounded third but went back when he saw the ball coming straight in to Suzuki (who almost tripped over the bat when blocking the ball). Despite the pitcher’s advantage from the shadows crossing home plate, Ross walked Garcia on four pitches. That triggered a mound visit from pitching coach Derek Lilliquist. The next batter up was Machado, pretty much the last Padre a pitcher would want to face in a tie game with the bases loaded. But Ross escaped the jam when he got Machado to pop out on a 2-and-0 count.
The Nationals didn’t get a man on base against Matt Wisler in the bottom of the ninth. Suzuki at least made contact, but Kieboom struck out, and Taylor looked at strike three for the fourth time.
Tony Sipp took the mound for the Nationals to begin the extra innings. Myers apparently had the same problem as Taylor: He too struck out looking for the fourth time. All Sipp allowed was a walk to Renfroe.
The Nationals had chances for a walk-off in the bottom of the 10th. Pinch-hitter Difo singled. Robles bunted, Wisler tossed the ball to Tatís at second. When Tatís stretched for the ball, his cleat slipped: He pulled his groin muscle and did not get the out. With the injury the Padres emptied their bench: Backup catcher Francisco Mejía had to play left field for the first time in his major-league career.8 Myers moved from left to third, Machado moved from third to shortstop. Dozier lined out to center, not deep enough for Difo to tag. Both runners advanced on Soto’s groundout down the first-base line. That was where they were left when Kenrick grounded to Machado: He dove, spun, and threw just in time to get Kendrick at first and keep the score tied.
Martinez handed the ball to Justin Miller for the 11th. Miller had not had a good outing against the Padres the night before: He was responsible for three runs as part of the Nationals’ 10th-inning bullpen debacle.9 This game, though, he was sharp: Strikeout, fly out, strikeout, and his team was back in the dugout.
The youngsters were the homer heroes earlier in the game, but 30-year-old Adams was the walk-off hero in the 11th: He bounced Wisler’s 1-and-1 pitch off the right-field foul pole into the third deck.10 Of course, he was met at the plate by his teammates armed with the usual Gatorade showers. Final score: 7-6, Nationals.
Once the Nationals regulars got healthy, Kieboom returned to the minors, where he hit 16 home runs. Robles hit 13 more in the season. Soto continued hitting homers (28 more) through the season and into the postseason (five): Among them were his game-tying homer off Clayton Kershaw in NLDS game five and a homer onto the train tracks in Houston in Game One of the World Series.
In addition to Baseball Reference and Retrosheet, the author viewed the recorded game at MLB.com. (mlb.com/gameday/padres-vs-nationals/2019/04/28/565908#game_tab=videos,game_state=final,game=565908)
1 The Padres started strong: they were only one game back of the Dodgers entering this game. They faded, finishing fifth, 36 games behind the Dodgers. The Nationals, fourth in the NL East (but only three games behind Philadelphia) recovered from their slow start to win the World Series via the wild card.
2 This game was designated as “Kids’ Opening Day.” The Nationals mascot, Screech, was celebrating his birthday. During Sunday day games, there would be a kid announcer for the first innings, and kids could run the bases after the games.
3 Mark Zuckerman, “Zimmerman to IL with Foot Injury, Rendon Out Again (Tied 6-6),” masnsports.com, April 28, 2019. masnsports.com/nationals-pastime/2019/04/zimmerman-to-il-with-foot-injury-rendon-out-again.html. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
4 For whatever reason, Lucchesi was much better at home than on the road in 2019: He was 8-4, 2.56 ERA at home, 2-6, 6.22 ERA on the road.
5 He had started four games for the Harrisburg Senators (2-0, 3.42 ERA).
6 Mark Zuckerman, “Youngest Nationals Make History with Trio of Home Runs,” masnsports.com, April 29, 2019. masnsports.com/nationals-pastime/2019/04/youngest-nationals-make-history-with-trio-of-home-runs.html. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
7 This was only the fourth at-bat of his major-league career. He ended the year with a more normal .234 BA in 184 at-bats.
8 He did play left three more times later in 2019.
9 Although he was charged with only one earned run, he plunked the first batter he faced to score one run, then gave up a single, scoring two inherited runners.
10 This was only the seventh homer hit into the third deck since Nationals Park opened. Mark Zuckerman, “Adams’ Titanic Blast in 11th Caps Nats’ Big Comeback,” masnsports.com, April 28, 2019. masnsports.com/nationals-pastime/2019/04/adams-titanic-blast-in-11th-caps-nats-big-comeback.html. Retrieved June 16, 2020.