WASHINGTON (AP) – Anthony Rendon doubled in the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning, Brian Dozier and Victor Robles homered, and the Washington Nationals beat the Kansas City Royals 5-2 Sunday to ride a wave of momentum into the All-Star break.
Washington has won 10 of 12 to climb past Philadelphia into second place in the NL East. Since sinking to 19-31 on May 23, the Nationals have gone 28-11 and lost only one of 13 series.
Starting pitching has been a big reason for the turnaround. In extending a trend, left-hander Patrick Corbin struck out 11 and scattered five hits over seven scoreless innings.
Over the last seven games, Nationals starters have a 1.35 ERA with 65 strikeouts. It was the ninth time in the last 12 games that Washington starters allowed one run or fewer.
Corbin left with a 2-0 lead, courtesy of solo homers by Dozier and Robles, but the Royals pulled even in the eighth.
After Fernando Rodney gave up a two-out RBI single to Adalberto Mondesi, Alex Gordon greeted Sean Doolittle (6-2) with a run-scoring double.
Washington emphatically answered in the bottom half against lefty Jake Diekman (0-6).
Rendon’s RBI double to the gap in left-center was followed by an error and a two-run double by pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick.
Much earlier, the game developed into a pitching duel between Corbin and Jakob Junis, who ended up allowing two runs and five hits over seven innings.
Corbin struck out the first four batters he faced, fended off doubles in second and third innings and was backed by a fine fielding play in the fourth.
After Gordon and Hunter Dozier opened with singles, Cheslor Cuthbert blooped a single to center. Robles made a quick pickup and fired to home, where Yan Gomes put the tag on Gordon.
BOUNCED IN RUBBER GAMES
The Royals fell to 1-8 in series deciding games, the lone exception a win over Detroit on June 13 to decide a three-game set.
That remains KC’s lone victory in a rubber game since May 30, 2018.
In addition, the Royals are 8-21 in series finales this year.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer has a sore back and will not pitch Tuesday in the All-Star Game, which enables him to get an eight-day break before his next start.
“Our season matters so much more than the All-Star Game,” Scherzer said.
INF Ryan Zimmerman wasn’t in the starting lineup for a second straight day.
“Everything’s good. This is kind of part of the deal moving forward,” said Zimmerman, who missed 53 games from April to late June with a foot injury. “It’s just going to be managing everything for the rest of the year, but I’ll take it. I’m just excited to be back and to be able to help.”
RHP Kyle Barraclough (sore forearm) was sent to Class A Potomac on a rehab assignment Sunday.
Royals: Last-place Kansas City emerges from the All-Star break with a home game Friday night against the Detroit Tigers, the second-worst team in the AL Central.
Nationals: Washington comes out of the break with a Friday night visit to Philadelphia, home of Bryce Harper and the Phillies, who are also in hot pursuit of first-place Atlanta in the NL East.