Anthony Rendon picked the ideal time to record his first major league homer, as his two-out solo shot in the top of the ninth proved to be the difference in the Washington Nationals' 7-6 victory over the Cleveland Indians in the middle test of a three-game set.
Vinnie Pestano (1-2) quickly forced two outs in the ninth before Rendon, who finished with three hits and two runs scored, looked to foul out to first base for the final out of the inning, but Indians first baseman Nick Swisher dropped the ball.
Rendon then smacked a go-ahead blast to right for the fifth Nats homer of the game and seventh between both teams -- all of which were solo shots.
"I don't even know how to explain it. It felt good, I guess." Rendon said. "I thought the ball was in play because I saw it drop. But I didn't know it went into the bullpen. I thought it was still on the field."
Down 6-5 in the eighth with Joe Smith on the hill for the Tribe, Chad Tracy smacked an 0-2 offering to dead-center, bringing the Nats back to life.
Drew Storen (1-1) earned the win after recording the final out of the eighth, while Rafael Soriano worked around a two-out double in the home ninth to obtain his 18th save of the season.
Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond all hit homers for the Nats, who have won three of four.
Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds clubbed back-to-back homers in the fourth for the Indians, who had won three straight following a season-high eight-game losing skid.
"We did a really good job of climbing back into that game," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We just, we didn't finish it out."
After the Indians scrapped their way back to take a 6-5 lead in the fifth, Washington searched for success and finally came through in the eighth with two outs as Tracy tied the game with his bomb to center.
Nationals ace Jordan Zimmermann was touched for six runs on eight hits over five frames and earned the no-decision despite receiving plenty of early run support.
Indians starter Scott Kazmir, meanwhile, dug himself in a hole he couldn't get out of.
Washington scored a pair of runs in the first thanks to back-to-back homers from Zimmerman and Werth, both with two outs.
The Nationals again used the longball in the second, as Desmond ripped a shot to left to make it 3-0.
Kazmir's struggles continued into the third, when Rendon doubled and Zimmerman and Werth both drew walks to load the bases. Adam LaRoche grounded into a double play, scoring Rendon. Kazmir then issued another walk, this time to Desmond and to make matters worse, the lefty then tossed a wild pitch to allow another run to cross home and make it 5-0.
Trailing 5-0 through 3 1/2 frames, Cleveland chipped its way back with Jason Kipnis' RBI single to left, scoring Mike Aviles, who doubled to lead off the inning. In the fourth, Zimmermann retired the first two batters, but in eerily similar fashion to Washington's first inning back-to-back blasts, Santana and Reynolds accomplished the same feat, closing the deficit to 5-3.
The momentum carried over for the Tribe into the fifth. Kipnis singled with two outs to move Aviles to second and Swisher followed with a liner up the middle to make it 5-4. Michael Brantley, the next batter, made Zimmermann pay even more by smacking a double into the right-center gap, scoring Kipnis and Swisher for a 6-5 advantage.
Zimmermann (9-3) had allowed two runs or fewer in all but two of 13 starts coming in ... Kazmir has allowed at least four runs in five of his last seven starts ... Zimmermann's allowed a combined 13 runs and 18 hits over his last two road starts ... Washington's five homers in one game set a new season-high ... Aviles finished with three hits and two runs scored and Brantley drove in two runs.