WASHINGTON — Keibert Ruiz hit the first pitch of bottom of the ninth inning into the right-field bullpen to give the Washington Nationals a 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night.
JJ Bleday and Brent Rooker homered and rookie Lawrence Butler got his first big-league hit for Oakland, which fell to a majors-worst 33-84. The Athletics are 51 games under .500 for the first time since finishing 54-108 in 1979. They are on pace to go 46-116.
Ruiz homered for the second consecutive night to help Washington win for the seventh time in its last 10 — and 11th victory in the last 13 home games.
Lucas Erceg (2-3) had just entered and threw a 97 mph that Ruiz smacked into the Nationals’ bullpen.
Kyle Finnegan (6-3) pitched a scoreless ninth for Washington.
For the second consecutive night, there were chants of “Sell the team! Sell the team!” in the top of the fifth inning, a message directed at Athletics owner John Fisher, who plans to move the franchise to Las Vegas. The A’s have played in Oakland since 1968.
Oakland starter Luis Medina was pulled after throwing 84 pitches in four innings. The rookie allowed a run in the second when leadoff hitter Ildemaro Vargas hit a sharp grounder back to the mound. As Medina jogged toward the bag and didn’t throw it to first baseman Tyler Soderstrom, Vargas hustled down the line for a single.
“It’s a mistake that will probably never happen again in his career. He was embarrassed by it (and), rightfully, so,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay told reporters afterward.
Washington sandwiched Stone Garrett’s walk and Blake Rutherford’s single — his first big league hit — around a strikeout, and Vargas scored on Alex Call’s forceout.
Bleday homered in the third off Washington starter Jake Irvin. The rookie right-hander set down the next 10 Athletics before Rooker ripped his 19th homer of the year to right. Irvin allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings and struck out six.
Irvin served up Butler’s first big-league hit, a searing double high off the wall in left center field in the seventh inning.
Washington tied it on Lane Thomas’ bases-loaded bloop single with none out in the eighth, but right-hander Angel Felipe induced a double-play grounder back to the mound and struck out Joey Meneses to prevent further damage.
Kotsay, though, lamented the way the Nationals’ eighth inning started as Felipe issued a walk and then couldn’t get to a bunt that shot past him on the mound.
“There in the eighth inning, not being able to field a bunt, walking the leadoff hitter. All the things that add up to a little bit of inexperience, a little bit of not being in the moment and (we’re) going through this with a young roster right now,” Kotsay said.
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Athletics: Oakland selected LHP Francisco Pérez from Triple-A Las Vegas and optioned LHP Sam Long to Las Vegas. Perez then threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief Saturday. Long was 0-1 with a 5.27 ERA in 38 games, but had a 10.38 ERA in 16 appearances since June 28. … Catcher Carlos Pérez (thumb) was 2 for 4 with two runs and an RBI in a rehabilitation assignment game Friday for Las Vegas.
Nationals: Manager Dave Martinez said RHP Joan Adon was feeling better after leaving Friday’s start after three innings with leg cramps. Adon will undergo tests before he starts again.
Athletics: LHP Ken Waldichuk (2-7, 6.30 ERA) faces Washington for the first time since his major league debut last Sept. 1, when he allowed one run in 4 2/3 innings.
Nationals: RHP Trevor Williams (5-7, 5.00), who is 0-2 with a 7.25 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break, gets the ball as the three-game series concludes.