Willingham's two grand slams too much for Brewers
His bat was staying in circulation for now, even if the Hall of Fame asked for the lumber.
“No, no way,” he said. “Well, when I break it, I’ll give it to them.”
Willingham hit two grand slams and tied a franchise record with eight RBIs, powering the Washington Nationals to a 14-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers here Monday night.
“That’s the beautiful thing about baseball,” he said. “You come into the game before the game, and you never know what could happen.”
Willingham became the 13th player to hit two grand slams in a game and first since Boston’s Bill Mueller hit one from each side of the plate on July 29, 2003, against Texas. Willingham’s eight RBIs were the most in Nationals history and tied the franchise mark, accomplished last by Tim Wallach for Montreal against San Diego in 1990.
“It’s something that when I was coming up to the plate the second time I knew that I had a chance to do it,” Willingham said. “Obviously, I wasn’t thinking about doing it. I wasn’t trying to do it. I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit and hit it hard.”
Willingham hit his 15th homer off Jeff Suppan (5-8) with two out in the fifth, capping a six-run inning with a 400-foot drive to left-center that struck the facing of the second deck. He connected again in the sixth, finishing a seven-run rally with a one-out shot off Mark DiFelice that hit the fencing above the Brewers’ bullpen and dropped in to make it 13-5.
“Everything’s got to be lined up right for you. You’ve got to be seeing the ball good, hitting the ball good and your teammates have to have been on base for you all night—twice,” Washington interim manager Jim Riggleman said.
Willingham said he realized the significance of his milestone as soon as he knew his second shot was gone.
“I didn’t know that 13 was the number, but I knew it was a rare feat, and I was thinking about it,” he said.
Willingham, who also doubled in the second, finished 3-for-5 and Ryan Zimmerman hit a solo homer in the eighth for the Nationals, who have won three straight to raise their major league-worst record to 31-68.
Willingham was due up fourth in the order when Zimmerman hit his homer.
“I told Zimmerman, I was like, ’Well, get on for me so I have a chance to hit with the bases loaded again.’ Then he hits a home run and I said, ’Why’d you do that?”’ Willingham joked.
Jason Bergmann (1-1) pitched 1 1-3 innings after rookie Craig Stammen was pulled one out short of qualifying for the win with Washington clinging to a 6-5 lead.
With series against the Nationals and San Diego, this was supposed to be the point of the schedule where the Brewers made up some much-needed ground. Milwaukee is actively looking to trade for a starting pitcher before Friday’s deadline, but it may not matter much. The Brewers have allowed nine homers in the last four games.
Corey Hart hit his second homer in as many days, and Ryan Braun added a two-run shot but the Brewers (49-50) fell below .500 for the first time since April 27. They are 7-15 since entering July with a two-game lead in the National League Central.
“The fans are getting a little restless, and I don’t blame them,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “We can’t continue to have to get four innings from the bullpen every night.”
Willingham’s homers overshadowed a less-than-stellar start by Stammen. The rookie right-hander trailed 2-0 before Willingham put him ahead 6-2 after Suppan allowed an RBI single to Nyjer Morgan and walked Adam Dunn with the bases loaded earlier in the fifth.
Milwaukee cut it to 6-5 on Felipe Lopez’s RBI single and Braun’s 20th homer, chasing Stammen with two outs in the fifth.
Suppan allowed 10 runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings.