Washington Nationals notebook: Kyle Finnegan, Jake Irvin, Jacob Young

Here's what we heard inside the clubhouse on Sunday after the Washington Nationals moved to 11-4 over their last 15 games.

Starting pitcher Jake Irvin of the Washington Nationals throws against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning inning at Coors Field.
DENVER, COLORADO - JUNE 23: Starting pitcher Jake Irvin #27 of the Washington Nationals throws against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning inning at Coors Field on June 23, 2024 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

DENVER — When the calendar turned to June, the Washington Nationals found their stride.

Over the last 15 games (since June 7), the Nationals are a Major League-best 11-4, helping them near the .500 mark at 38-39 heading into Monday’s series opener in San Diego against the Padres.

The trip to Petco Park is the middle stop of a nine-game, three-city road trip … and the road certainly doesn’t seem to be a concern for the Nationals right now as they clinched their second-consecutive road series and fourth series win in their last five tries with Sunday’s come-from-behind win in Denver against the Colorado Rockies.

Washington’s 2-1 win on Sunday earned the Nationals their 22nd come-from-behind victory of the season, the most of any MLB team.

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“We don’t have a ton of guys that hit 30-40 homers a year like a lot of these other teams,” Lane Thomas said after Sunday’s win. “I think it’s important for us to, when we have guys on base, to take good at-bats and, vice versa, guys getting on base so that we don’t have to hit the ball out to score runs. We can hit sac flies and move guys over. That’s a big part of what we do.”

Jacob Young catching fire

Over the last seven games, the 24-year-old Young is slashing .391/.417/.609 and flashing the speed that has already netted him 17 stolen bases on the season.

Batting ninth on Sunday, Young broke up Kyle Freeland’s no-hit bid with one out in the sixth inning by beating out an infield single to Colorado’s Ryan McMahon at third base, then hustling to third when McMahon’s throw sailed over first baseman Michael Toglia’s head.

In the ninth, with the Nationals down 1-0 and with just that one hit so far, Young once again singled to open the frame. That seemed to open the door for Washington’s offense, with two additional hits in the inning etching out the two runs needed for the Nationals to win.

“Any time he gets to first, that’s a triple in my head,” Thomas said of Young. “I feel like he figures out a way to get to third before we have two outs.

“It’s always good seeing him out there, especially when I’m hitting,” Thomas smiled.

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Kyle Finnegan’s redemption

Washington lost Saturday night’s game to the Rockies after Finnegan allowed four hits and two runs in the bottom of the ninth, then walked in the winning run on a pitch clock violation, marking the first time a game had ended under that circumstance.

Finnegan got a chance to redeem himself on Sunday, but it certainly started off in a not-so-great way, with the first two Colorado batters reaching on singles. However, Finnegan recorded strikeouts on two of the next three hitters, and also got a flyout to record his 22nd save of the season.

Washington manager Dave Martinez said after the game that the moment was big for his closer.

“For him to do what he did last night and come back and see the first two guys get on but stay in the moment was awesome,” Martinez said. “I was proud of him. He came in and I gave him a big hug and he said, ‘I needed that.’ I said, ‘Why? You’re good. You don’t need that.’ I told him one game does not justify who you are. You’re our closer and you did a great job today.”

Finnegan’s 22 saves ranks second in the National League, only behind Ryan Helsley of the St. Louis Cardinals, who talked with me about the mindset of a closer on a recent episode of the Clubhouse Chatter podcast.

Jake Irvin impressing

The 27-year-old right-hander continued an impressive stretch on Sunday, scattering three hits and one run while striking out 10 Rockies over 6.0 innings. This month, in five starts, Irvin is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA over 29.0 innings.

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At one point on Sunday during the middle of his outing, Irvin struck out eight of the 10 batters he faced on his way to racking up 22 swings and misses on the day. His curveball was a big weapon, getting called strikes or swings and misses on 23 of the 49 he threw.

“Once he found that curveball, watching him, I was thinking, ‘Man, this is going to get interesting,'” Martinez said. “Our guy was unbelievable. To come in here and strike out 10 guys, that’s pretty impressive. He pitched really well.”

It’s the second time this season that Irvin has struck out 10, with the last coming on May 28 against Atlanta. Sunday marked the first time a Nationals pitcher had ever recorded double-digit strikeouts in a game at Coors Field.

“Just keeping us in the game and giving us a chance to win there at the end is what I set out to do,” Irvin said. “And I think Keibert (Ruiz) called a really good game and we attacked hitters, so that was really big for us.”