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Red Sox 8, Nationals 7: Red Sox rally as Nationals melt down last

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The Red Sox jumped on Stephen Strasburg early, and while Justin Masterson undid their good work at the plate, the Washington defense proved capable of getting them back on top by the end of the night.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox saw a comfortable lead turn into a two-run deficit in the blink of an eye, but ended up laughing last as the Nationals defense crumbled in the seventh to give Boston the 8-7 win.

Justin Masterson had himself quite the Jekyll-and-Hyde performance. Or, rather, a Hyde-Jekyll-Hyde performance. Boston's starting pitcher may as well have showed up to the park 20 pitches late. Masterson was struggling to put away batters early and made to pay for it first with a line drive single, and then with a walk to Ryan Zimmerman, with only another impressive catch in center from Mookie Betts keeping the Nationals off the board.

After falling behind 3-0 to Zimmerman, however, Masterson seemed to get everything to click. He gave up the walk, yes, but struck out Clint Robinson and started throwing the ball pretty well. The Nationals would manage to put together a run in the second, but that was mostly because Hanley Ramirez misplayed a ball in left. Beyond that, he cruised through the end of the fourth, keeping the Nationals quiet and even getting his pitch count back under control.

The Red Sox lineup, having just dispensed with Jordan Zimmermann in the opening game of the series, faced another serious challenge in Stephen Strasburg Tuesday night. And as they have already done a couple times this season, they made a very good pitcher look very bad. While a pair of singles went to waste in the first, Mookie Betts capitalized on another pair in the second, shooting a sharp ground ball past the bag at first to score both Mike Napoli and Brock Holt, giving the Red Sox the 2-1 lead.

Boston would threaten again in the third, with Hanley Ramirez singling and Pablo Sandoval getting hit by a pitch to put two men on with one out. The danger might have been snuffed out when Mike Napoli hit a ground ball to short, but Pablo Sandoval slid hard into second, breaking up any potential double play and keeping the inning alive for Boston. It would turn out to be a key play, as Daniel Nava and Ryan Hanigan produced back-to-back singles to bring in two more runs. With Dustin Pedroia going deep in the fourth, the Red Sox had built up a 5-1 lead on Strasburg as the game neared the halfway mark.

All would have been well if Justin Masterson hadn't transofrmed back into Hyde. It started with a simple hit batter--one of Masterson's greatest vices--but just built from there. A line drive to left put two on with one down, and Ryan Zimmerman drew a walk to load the bases, bringing Juan Nieves to the mound.

Whatever advice Boston's pitching coach had, it didn't help Masterson. Clint Robinson scored Jayson Werth with a well-hit single to right, and while Masterson was able to get Wilson Ramos on a ground ball that proved too weak for a double play, Ian Desmond managed a hot shot past Mike Napoli, scoring Zimmerman and Robinson and bringing the Nationals all the way back from a 5-1 deficit into a tie. Masterson stayed in to plunk one more batter, Alexi Ogando served up a triple to deep right-center, and just like that the Red Sox were looking up at the Nationals, trailing 7-5. To make matters worse, Pablo Sandoval would be pulled from the game, clearly feeling the effects of a pitch to the foot, bringing Hanley Ramirez all the way in to third base.

And then, as they had done behind Zimmermann on Monday, the Nationals defense gave the game away. Ian Desmond bobbled a Hanley Ramirez ground ball to start the seventh, and with Matt Thornton hitting Shane Victorino, the Sox quickly had something going, even without the benefit of a hit. The hit would never come, in fact, but they wouldn't need it either. After Allen Craig replaced Daniel Nava, the Nationals yanked Matt Thornton for Blake Treinen, playing a right-on-right matchup that ended with Craig getting hit on the very first pitch thrown to him.

Still, Treinen managed to get a weak ground ball between third and home from Ryan Hanigan, and may have escaped the inning right then and there had he not proceeded to throw the ball into the stands, bringing home the tying run for Boston. Even then the nightmare was not over for Washington. On the very next pitch, Brock Holt hit a ground ball to Ian Desmond, who had an easy play at home...had he thrown the ball. Instead, Desmond hesitated once, twice, and fired to first for the force, letting the go-ahead run come in to score.

From there, the Red Sox just needed two clean innings to win. The first came from Junichi Tazawa without too much hassle. The second from Koji Uehara with two strikeouts, and one full-on heart attack when Ryan Zimmerman crushed a hanging splitter deep into the Boston night...but foul. Zimmerman still made hard contact in the end, but his line drive found Allen Craig, and a much better splitter got Clint Robinson to seal another series win for the Red Sox.

The Sox will go for the sweep tomorrow, and what's more, they might well have Xander Bogaerts and Pablo Sandoval when they do. Both men had clean scans, meaning it's just a question of soreness.