There was an elevated focus in the Dodgers’ dugout entering the fifth inning at Nationals Park on Thursday night. The thunderstorms were coming and they were trailing the Washington Nationals by one run. A scoreless top of the fifth probably meant a loss and the end of their five-game winning streak. The weather forecast was not pretty.
The concerns were erased two pitches into the inning when AJ Pollock clubbed a slider from Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin for a home run. Tie game. Minutes later, the Dodgers had the bases loaded and Corbin hung a slider to Max Muncy. He swatted it for a grand slam.
In the moment, it gave the Dodgers a 6-2 lead. By the end of the night – after a delay of one hour and 17 minutes – it gave them their sixth straight win since getting no-hit by the Chicago Cubs.
“There was a little urgency in the dugout,” Muncy said. “But we were mostly just trying to play our game, trying to go out there and put good at-bats together. Thankfully the timing was right on that.”
The Dodgers (50-31) originally listed Tony Gonsolin as their starter. They called an audible shortly before first pitch. Worried that they could burn Gonsolin if rain delayed the game early, the Dodgers chose to open the game with left-hander Victor González.
The reliever faced four batters, gave up one run and got two out. Phil Bickford was summoned to pitch and secured the third out of the first inning. Gonsolin then entered to start the second. He wasn’t sharp, but held the Nationals to one run over three innings.
Before the game, manager Dave Roberts said Gonsolin could throw 70 to 80 pitches, but the weather changed his calculus. Knowing that thunderstorms neared, he chose to pinch-hit Gonsolin with Steven Souza Jr. after 52 pitches. Souza Jr., following Pollock’s home run, reached on an infield single.
Chris Taylor walked and Justin Turner singled to load the bases for Muncy. Corbin got Muncy to whiff on a tight slider in the dirt to begin the at-bat. Then he tried the slider again. It stayed up and Muncy smashed it.
“Went to the well once too many times,” Roberts noted of Corbin’s pitch selection.
Garrett Cleavinger recorded three quick outs in the bottom of the inning to make the game official before it was stopped. The grounds crew quickly rolled out the tarp. Within moments, a tornado warning blared from smartphones around the ballpark. Fans rushed for cover as rain started pouring sideways. The water didn’t let up until the umpires called the game, giving the Dodgers a win on a timely swing in the fifth inning.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.