The Washington Nationals are one of the hottest teams in baseball right now, in the middle of an unlikely postseason charge after months of disappointment. The Nats are still long shots for that second NL Wild Card but have their fingers crossed that they can pull off a made-for-the-movies comeback. That requires more than just being good. It requires luck.
And Tuesday, facing the division-leading Atlanta Braves at a time when every loss closes their coffin door a bit, the Nats seized an improbable bit of luck in a stunning 6-5 win.
Washington was down 5-3 going into the bottom of the ninth facing Craig Kimbrel, the best closer in baseball. He had a 1.04 ERA coming into Tuesday's game and had only given up seven runs all season. Further, he hadn't blown a save since May 7 and had only given up two runs since the start of July.
The Nats were able to load the bases on Kimbrel after two walks and a base hit. That in itself is a rarity. Washington scored one run on a fielder's choice. That brought Denard Span to the plate with runners at second and third and one out.
Span hit a grounder up the middle that sure-handed Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons shouldn't have had a problem with. It was probably going to plate the tying run, but it would ... wait! The ball went right past Simmons' glove. This is the same Andrelton Simmons who might be having the best defensive season ever, according to Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan.
Both runners scored. The Nats won 6-5. Somehow they got over on the best closer in the game and got one past the best shortstop in the league right now. If that's not a touch of late-season magic, what is?
The Nats are still 4 1/2 behind the Cincinnati Reds for that second Wild Card berth with 12 games remaining on their schedule (including another Tuesday, the second half of a doubleheader). If the Nats are going to squeeze into the postseason — which isn't impossible, just improbable — they better hope they didn't use up all their magic to win this game.