WASHINGTON – The Washington Nationals’ surge started after they brought aboard Gerardo Parra, whose dugout dancing and “Baby Shark” walk-up music became the trademarks of the club’s turnaround.
So maybe it’s fitting the Nationals assured themselves of hosting the NL wild-card game by holding on to beat the already-eliminated Cleveland Indians 10-7 Saturday with the help of his grand slam in a nine-run second inning.
“You guys are feeling the good vibes in here,” Parra said. “It’s like a family.”
Nationals Park will be the site of a win-or-go-home game Tuesday night between Washington, which will send three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer to the mound, and either the St. Louis Cardinals or Milwaukee Brewers. One of those clubs will be the NL Central champion; the other will be the league’s second wild-card entry.
“That’s awesome. I don’t have to go home and pack,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “Nice to stay at home. The boys wanted to stay at home, so they came out and swung the bats.”
Asked before Saturday’s game about the importance of clinching home-field advantage, Scherzer said: “Would it be nice? Yes. But is it imperative? No. We’re ready to play anybody, anywhere.”
Sure looks that way at the moment. Washington extended its winning streak to seven games, the longest run this season for a team that was 19-31 before heading in the right direction.
“We’re hot at the right time,” said starter Patrick Corbin, who got hit around, giving up six runs on three homers in 4⅓ innings.
The Indians hit four long balls in all, breaking their franchise record for a season with 222.
“I care more about finding a way to be one run better than the other team, whether it takes 10 singles or five homers,” manager Terry Francona said. “I don’t care. All I care about is us winning, and, however we get to that, I’ll take it.”
Playing in place of an ill Victor Robles, Parra drove in four runs Friday — with a homer, a double and a sacrifice fly — and continued his surge Saturday.
That included his second grand slam with Washington, which signed him in May to a deal worth the $555,000 minimum after the 32-year-old outfielder was designated for assignment by San Francisco.
“Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Yesterday was a big day,” Parra said, “but I think today is another big day.”
Astros 6, Angels 3
In Anaheim, California, it ended up being a night of milestones for Justin Verlander and Houston.
The Astros ace accomplished two strikeout feats — getting his 3,000th in the majors and career-high 300th of the season — and Houston clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
“It was a big night for Justin and a great night for our team,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said.
Jose Altuve and Josh Reddick homered to back Verlander (21-6), who became the 18th pitcher to reach 3,000 career punchouts and the 19th since 1900 to reach 300 in a season. Both came against Kole Calhoun.
The right-hander — who struck out 12 in six innings while allowing three runs and four hits — came into the game with 2,994 strikeouts. He expected to reach the career milestone, but he thought getting to 300 would be a tougher task against a team that is the third-toughest to strike out in the majors. He’s the second pitcher to reach both marks in the same game, following Arizona’s Randy Johnson in 2000.
“Three thousand was something I wanted to accomplish this season. I honestly wrote off 300. I thought it was going to be a lot to ask for since these guys don’t strike out much,” Verlander said. “I got 3,000 and then to look up after five innings and have 11 strikeouts. Talking to AJ, I knew we were only going to go six innings. I had more emotion for 300 than 3,000 because I didn’t expect to get there in this game. Very thankful to get both accomplishments. It hasn’t set in yet.”
In Other Games
Dodgers 2, Giants 0
Cubs 8, Cardinals 6
Rockies 3, Brewers 2 (10)
Phillies 9, Marlins 3
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 5
Reds 4, Pirates 2 (12)
Mets 3, Braves 0
Athletics 1, Mariners 0
Blue Jays 4, Rays 1
Twins 4, Royals 3
Orioles 9, Red Sox 4
White Sox 7, Tigers 1 (1st)
Tigers 4, White Sox 3, (2nd)
Rangers 9, Yankees 4
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5