WASHINGTON (AP) —Rafael Soriano has been so successful closing games for Washington that his teammates want to follow his lead, right down to the untucked jersey.
Soriano converted his 12th save in 13 chances to end the Nationals’ 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday to complete a two-game sweep of the AL champions.
Once Soriano retired Prince Fielder on a game-ending flyout to the center field warning track with a man on, Soriano was joined in his signature celebration — untucking his jersey — by several teammates.
“I never thought I would be a guy to do it,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “But when you’ve got a teammate out there doing it, I think it’s cool for the guys to join in. If that’s his thing, great. He’s not showing anybody up. It’s just his style.”
What does it represent to the team?
“No clue,” LaRoche said.
Perhaps the gesture’s an ode to a bullpen that helped the Nationals claim their first four-game winning streak of the year.
Ryan Mattheus, Drew Storen and Soriano combined for shutout relief after Dan Haren nearly squandered a four-run lead. Washington’s three relievers had identical lines, each giving up a hit and striking out a batter in an inning.
LaRoche singled in the first and second innings for his first consecutive multihit games this season, and Ryan Zimmerman, in a 2-for-14 slide coming in, had three hits.
Tigers pitcher Doug Fister (4-1) had an RBI single in the second off Haren (4-3), but the Nationals made it 5-1 in the bottom half on consecutive run-scoring singles by Zimmerman and LaRoche.
LaRoche has eight hits in his last 14 at-bats, raising his average from .129 through May 1 to .196.
“I like where he’s at,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said before the game. “I think he’s seeing the ball better. His timing’s coming around.”
Haren allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings, giving up a three-run homer in the sixth to Matt Tuiasosopo. That was the Tigers’ first home run by a pinch hitter since Ryan Rayburn at the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 14, 2011.
Haren said he wasn’t at his best Thursday, which was especially disconcerting facing the Tigers powerful lineup.
“That lineup is ridiculous,” Haren said.
Fister gave up five runs, eight hits and four walks in three innings, his first loss since Game 2 of the World Series at San Francisco last October. He was removed for a pinch hitter in the fourth. It was his shortest career start other than an outing at Cleveland in August 2011 when he was taken out after two innings because of a lengthy rain delay.
“He wasn’t sharp,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “You could see that. He wasn’t brutal by any means, but he just wasn’t sharp. His curveball wasn’t good like it normally is. Just one of those things.”
Fister drove in a run with his first hit since June 26, 2011, for Seattle. It was the first RBI by a Tigers pitcher since Rick Porcello had two on June 12, 2009.
Detroit had entered with nine wins in 10 games only to get swept for the first time since losing three games at the Los Angeles Angels from April 19-21. Omar Infante had three hits for the Tigers.
Notes: The game was a makeup of Tuesday night’s rainout. Rain fell during the second and third innings Thursday but play was not halted. ... Nationals OF Jayson Werth (strained right hamstring) took batting practice but missed his fifth straight game. Johnson said Werth’s MRI was “pretty negative,” indicating no serious problems. Johnson said he expects Werth will miss only one more game. ... Leyland has managed at every current big league ballpark other than Marlins Park, which opened in 2012. ... Ross Detwiler (1-3, 2.50) will face Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-4, 3.09) on Friday night in Washington. ... Max Scherzer (4-0, 3.43) starts at home Friday, opposed by RHP Cleveland’s Corey Kluber (2-1, 3.06).