PHOENIX (AP) — Red and blue lights flashed in the darkness as rap music blared and smoke filled the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse.
The party ended at the door of the manager’s office.
Inside it, Matt Williams, the one person who should have been celebrating, was subdued, calmly talking about his team’s latest comeback win.
With his team’s recent struggles, he was just happy to get a win — no matter where it was.
Pinch-hitter Kevin Frandsen and Danny Espinosa each hit solo homers in the ninth inning, helping the Nationals rally for a 6-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night in Williams’ return to the desert.
“It’s good win for us,” Williams said. “We needed that.”
Williams was a fixture in Arizona before becoming Washington’s manager this offseason.
His new team scored four runs early, shut down for four innings, and tied it when Espinosa hit the second pitch of the ninth by Addison Reed (1-3) just over the wall in right.
Frandsen put the Nationals up by lining his second career pinch-hit homer to left and Rafael Soriano stranded a runner at second in the ninth for his eighth save.
Tyler Clippard (3-2) pitched a scoreless inning, Ian Desmond hit a two-run homer and Tyler Moore added a solo shot for Washington, which followed a three-game sweep by Oakland with its 11th comeback victory.
“We needed that win,” Espinosa said. “Coming off the series we just had, we really needed this. It’s a good win.”
The Diamondbacks thought they had it.
Arizona had 13 hits — three by Aaron Hill — and went up 5-4 when A.J. Pollock hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning.
The bullpen did its job for three innings until it got to the ninth, where Reed struggled for his second blown save and Arizona’s first loss when leading after eight innings (11-1).
“There is not controversy here. He is our closer,” Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. “He has done a (heck of a) job for us. Let’s not forget that. It didn’t work out tonight.”
Williams played for Arizona from 1996-2003 and was on the coaching staff from 2010-13 before getting his first shot at managing. He received a nice ovation when he was recognized and a video tribute played on the video board after the first inning.
Williams’ current team limped into the desert for a three-game series against his old one.
The Nationals have lost five of their eight position players from opening day to the disabled list, the latest first baseman Adam LaRoche, who went out Sunday with a strained right quad.
The Diamondbacks have been headed in the opposite direction since getting off to the worst start in franchise history. Ten games under .500 after 18 games, Arizona has started to show signs of life, winning three straight series during a 6-3 road trip that ended Sunday.
Both teams knocked the ball around the ballpark most of the night.
Moore, LaRoche’s replacement, went 0-for-3 after being called up on Sunday, but had a quick impact in Monday’s game, hitting a solo homer to left off Josh Collmenter in the second inning to put Washington up 2-0.
Collmenter hit his first career double in the third inning and scored on Martin Prado’s ground-rule double to end Jordan Zimmermann’s scoreless streak at 12 innings. Paul Goldschmidt followed with another run-scoring double and Miguel Montero drove him in with a single to put Arizona up 3-2.
The lead didn’t last long; Desmond lined a two-run homer to left in the fourth to put Washington back up 4-3.
Collmenter allowed four runs on four hits in five innings.
Pollock put Arizona on top again in the sixth inning, dropping a two-run homer onto the pool deck in right.
Zimmermann allowed five runs on 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Randall Delgado, Evan Marshall and Brad Ziegler each pitched a scoreless inning of relief for Arizona, but Reed gave up two homers that cleared by a few feet each in the ninth to give Williams bragging rights over his former team for at least one night.
“I just have to keep the ball down and throw the ball where I am trying to throw it,” Reed said. “Location is everything in pitching and right now I am leaving it over the middle of the plate.”
NOTES: Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Frandsen’s other pinch-hit homer was June 22, 2013, against the Mets… Ziegler stretched his scoreless streak to 18 1-3 innings with a perfect eighth. … Arizona RHP Bronson Arroyo, who will start the second game against Washington on Tuesday, is 2-0 and has not allowed an earned run in 14 1-3 innings his past two starts. He will face Stephen Strasburg, who is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his past four starts.
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