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Instant analysis: Nats 6, Giants 5

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Instant analysis: Nats 6, Giants 5

Game in a nutshell: On Turn Back the Clock night, the Nationals and Giants staged a tense battle not all that unlike Game 7 of the 1924 World Series. Right down to the home team rallying to win in walk-off fashion. Ross Detwiler labored through five innings and was probably lucky to escape allowing only three runs. Matt Cain, meanwhile, was in complete control for six innings, baffling the Nationals' hitters with his impressive arsenal. All of a sudden, though, the Nats lineup came to life in the bottom of the seventh, with Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa clubbing back-to-back homers and Bryce Harper delivering a two-out, RBI double to cut the Giants' lead to one. It remained a 5-4 game into the bottom of the ninth, at which point the Nationals staged their winning rally off closer Santiago Casilla. Tyler Moore kicked things off with a double to deep left-center. Casilla then couldn't field Steve Lombardozzi's sacrifice bunt attempt. Harper grounded into a forceout at the plate, and Adam LaRoche grounded into what looked like a 4-6-3 double play. But Brandon Crawford's relay bounced and Brandon Belt couldn't make the scoop. Harper came in to score and the Nationals pulled off a wild, 6-5 victory.

Hitting highlight: Say this for Harper: He battles through at-bats with the best of them, even if it doesn't always result in a hit. The rookie fouled off five straight 2-2 pitches from Cain in the bottom of the sixth, ultimately grounding out but drawing several ovations from the crowd of 29,819 which appreciated the effort. One inning later, Harper came up to bat against tough lefty Jeremy Affeldt in a big spot with two on and two out. He was called for a borderline check swing with a 2-0 count, but brushed it off and roped an opposite-field double on the next pitch to drive in a key run. Then he did it again in the bottom of the ninth, sending a run-scoring single to right off Santiago Casilla to lead the game-winning rally.

Pitching lowlight: It was a strange night for Detwiler, who only gave up a handful of hard-hit balls yet gave up 11 base hits. Many of them were groundballs that found holes. Detwiler didn't pitch particularly well, but he did come through with some big outs when he needed them. In the end, the best thing the left-hander did was make it through five innings having allowed only three runs. On a night like this, that actually was something of a minor miracle.

Key stat: The teams with baseball's best records in 1924: the Giants, Nationals, Dodgers, Pirates and Yankees. The teams with baseball's best records in 2012 (entering tonight): the Rangers, Yankees, Nationals, Pirates, Dodgers and Giants.

Up next: The final series of the season's first half begins Friday night when the Rockies come to town. Stephen Strasburg faces lefty Drew Pomeranz at 7:05 p.m.

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Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

RELATED: NATIONALS REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE

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Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

When it comes to sports, we sometimes forget that the athletes we look up to are just normal people. Normal people who have a lot to prove to millions of people on a weekly basis. Former Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel has discussed one of his human moments in an interview with 590 The Fan in St. Louis.

Ankiel admitted to drinking vodka during his plight as a pitcher. He referenced his first two starts of the 2001 season, in particular against the Arizona Diamondbacks where he allowed his anxiety to give in to alcohol to soothe him. In the previous postseason, he became the first pitcher since 1980 to throw five wild pitches in a single inning. 

It may have worked for a couple of games but Ankiel eventually realized it was only making matters worse.

Ankiel began playing in Majors at the age of 19, and has had a fluctuating career through six teams. All the while, he has kept a “never give up” mentality.

Why the sudden need to vent? Ankiel is getting up close and personal with his upcoming book, “The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed my Life” which is co-written by sports writer Tim Brown. The book will be released on April 18.  

MORE NATS: Can't miss Nationals promotional schedule